Don’t give in to road rage – drive defensively

Courtesy of Richard Perry
Richard Perry, The Hemet Car Guy.

Greetings from the Hemet Car Guy,

Driving down Florida Avenue every so often I experience drivers that drive so aggressively that they are a danger to others. I don’t know if they are on their way to a fire or just having a bad day.
Merriam-Webster defines road rage as a “motorist’s uncontrolled anger that is usually provoked by another motorist’s irritating act and is expressed in aggressive or violent behavior.” Such behavior might include rude gestures, verbal insults, deliberately driving in an unsafe or threatening manner or making threats. Road rage can lead to altercations, assaults and collisions that result in injuries and even deaths. It can be thought of as an extreme case of aggressive driving.
Road rage is a growing problem on our roadways, especially locally on Gilman Springs Road. Learning how to deal with road rage can help you sidestep the dangerous nightmare that often follows an aggressive road rage incident.

Back off from aggressive drivers
You must realize that you can’t control another driver’s behavior, but you can control your own. When another driver cuts you off, how you react will determine what happens next. If you are able to back off, take a deep breath, and remain calm, then you can defuse a potentially violent situation.
True, you might need to vent about the driver tailgating you all the way from town or the overly cautious motorist who consistently drove under the speed limit. Venting your frustration is normal and healthy, so long as you vent appropriately.
Talk to a friend or family member about the driving experience – telling the story can relieve your stress. Some driving clubs or online discussions offer members a chance to vent their frustration.

Know your own driving style
What if you are the aggressive driver? Analyze your driving style and whether you are susceptible to road rage; then consider changing your own driving habits. Aggressive drivers routinely:

• Tailgate
• Use their horn
• Flash their headlights
• Change lanes quickly and often
• Gesture to other drivers
• Talk on their cell phone

Changing your driving habits is not easy. You’ll need to practice and study safer driving habits. Consider signing up for a driver’s education course or better yet, personalized training.
Of course, the other extreme is the instigator- the driver who infuriates other drivers by driving under the speed limit, skipping turn signals, slowing down early for exits, accelerating unevenly and hogging lanes. If this sounds like you, maybe you’ve already been the victim of someone else’s road rage.
If you are an instigator and have avoided a road rage confrontation, congratulations. Regardless, now is the time to improve your own driving habits before you provoke a bad situation.
Remember, you are sharing the road with other motorists, pedestrians and cyclists. It is only fair for you to recognize that people are going to work, school or important appointments and driving under the speed limit is inconsiderate. You can pull over and let others pass by.

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Road rage can lead to altercations, assaults and collisions resulting in injuries and even deaths.

Is there a medical basis for road rage?
Why do some drivers get worked up during the daily commute? Some doctors believe there is a medical basis for road rage. The National Institutes of Health sponsored a study that looked at road rage in drivers.

In 5 to 7 percent of the nearly 10,000 drivers studied, road rage behavior was present. A general theory came out of the study, and Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED) was identified as the cause of road rage.
Losing your temper used to be just bad form; now it has a diagnosis and can begin in the early teens. People diagnosed with IED have multiple outbursts that are way out of proportion to the situation at hand. Generally, someone gets hurt or property is damaged.
Whether or not you believe in a medical basis for road rage, you still need to know how to deal with it. Uncertain situations can escalate unpredictably, and the best advice is to avoid confrontations altogether. If you tend to provoke other drivers or are on the aggressive side of road rage, put some effort into learning new driving habits.
And for those of us who run the middle of the road, maintain those defensive driving skills and keep a watchful eye on developing hazardous situations.

Good Driving from the “Hemet Car Guy”

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