As roadways become increasingly congested, how we feel when we drive has a lot to do with how safely we drive. NHTSA (National  Highway Traffic Safety Administration) estimates that aggressive driving accounts for about one-third of all crashes and about two-thirds of the resulting fatalities. There are things drivers can do to limit the behaviors associated with aggressive driving. 

Here are ten tips to help you reduce the strain of being on the road: 

1. Get your Z’s

Lack of sleep makes us more prone to emotional disregulation, and frustrations more difficult to take in stride. The recommended “dose” of sleep for adults is still about eight hours. 

2. Give yourself time

Feeling rushed, or running late, can increase the stress of getting from point A to B. Often there are things we simply can’t plan for that we encounter on the roads – traffic, road construction, or simply making a wrong turn. Allow yourself a window of time to get to your destination so you don’t feel rushed on the way. You’ll arrive in a better state of mind anyway. 

3. Even if your car goes fast, it doesn’t mean you have to

Much of branding and advertising concerns creating an emotional state associated with the product. Cars aren’t any different. Over-identifying with our vehicles can result in acting out emotions without regards for safety – or legality. A fast, sleek car that could weave through traffic and leave other cars in the dust does not make for safe driving, even if it looks like a great way to have fun or blow off steam in the commercials. Those disclaimers, “Professional driver on a closed course” are there for a reason.

4. Easy Listening Makes for Easier Driving

Aggressive or energetic music can be great for working out but not so good while inching along in traffic. Listening to music or audiobooks you enjoy can take your mind into a less stressful state, and music such as classical or jazz can relax and soothe. Listening to a story can make the time in a car useful – and who knows, you might learn something. For a list of great audiobooks, click here. 

5. Loosen up!

Take note of how you’re sitting. Are you white-knuckling the steering wheel? How’s your jaw? Often our body responds very quickly to what our mind is doing – and vice versa. So take a scan of yourself and see if you’re tense anywhere. If you are, you might want to take a deep breath and focus on relaxing those parts that have tensed up. You can even make a game of it, scanning your body from the tips of your toes to the top of your head. By the time you reach the top, you might end up feeling more relaxed all over. Even better, you get to arrive at your destination feeling relaxed instead of upset.

6. Don’t Take It Personally

If someone cuts you off, or brakes erratically, it may have nothing to do with you. Maybe they’ve got a loose pet, or a bee in the car, but chances are, it’s just not about you. That kind of takes the point out of revenge, doesn’t it? The safest response is to put as much distance as possible between your car and an unsafe driver’s car. Exit the roadway to let them pass if you can.

7. Hostility is Bad For Your Health

People most prone to anger are almost three times more likely to have a heart attack than those with low anger, according to the American Psychological Association. Other health risks seen in those who display hostility include obesity, depression and stroke. Having time in your car can be a respite from the every day world, a place where you have to go with the flow – the flow of traffic, that is. Instead of seeing other vehicles and construction as obstacles, perhaps look at it as opportunity. Time to take a deep breath, recenter, and count to ten. It’s just not worth the toll on your body to fly through the roof.

8. Remember: People Drive Cars

It doesn’t always feel that way. We see the vehicle, not the driver. And sometimes drivers do foolish things behind the wheel, or act aggressively. But how reacting to that behavior face to face is often very different than in the safety and anonymity of a vehicle. Try to remember that other people can have bad days, and deserve a break sometimes. 

9. Check Yourself

Classes designed to help curb aggressive driving often have participants record themselves while driving. Hearing themselves swear or rant can be eye-opening, and helps recognize and reduce dangerous behavior. Try analyzing your own driving. Do any of these statements sound like you?

  • I regularly exceed the speed limit to get to work on time.
  • I tailgate other drivers, especially those who sit in the left lane.
  • I flash my lights and honk my horn to let drivers know when they annoy me.
  • I verbally abuse other drivers whether they can hear me or not.
  • I frequently weave in and out of traffic to get ahead.
  • I feel the need to set bad drivers straight. 

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, your driving may qualify as aggressive. The American Institute for Public Safety (AIPS) has a more detailed RoadRageous Test that determines if your driving habits can use some re-conditioning. 

10. Treat Others As You Would Like to Be Treated

It’s the golden rule, and still applies to people in their own vehicular bubble. Remembering simple courtesies, like giving space to merging vehicles, apologizing when we make a mistake, and using the “courtesy wave” if someone lets you into traffic all help to make the ride smoother. 

Remember, it’s not just the destination, but the journey too. And if you are hurt in an accident because of someone else’s negligence or recklessness, contact Bill. He has experience getting results in many kinds of cases in which accident victims need help recovering.

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