Road rage is a relatively new phenomenon. It’s a term coined in the 1980s to describe aggressive confrontations among motorists.
Attribute it to factors of the modern world, including previously unheard-of levels of traffic congestion, more miles driven, and the daily stress of multi-tasking.
There is also the human’s natural tendency to fight for territorial rights even when in a car and on a highway. Drivers have even been assaulted with everything from guns to water bottles, hamburgers, and used diapers.
Road raging drivers frequently tailgate as a means to get the car ahead of them to speed up, or get out of their way. They will move into your lane and the very lane space you occupy, weaving in with only an inch to spare. They like to yell, smash their steering wheel with their fists, swear, use hand gestures, and honk their horns.
During the last 7 years, out of all 315,000 people who passed away in traffic accidents, 48,200 of those deaths are directly related to aggressive driving.
Mental toughness – discipline
The automobile is a powerful machine, and a driver’s license is a privilege and you’re expected to be responsible while operating a vehicle.
Small fender-benders result in a loss of time and hassles, but a serious car accident could be life-changing, rendering you or someone else disabled or worse.
While on the road we have the choice to be a passive driver or an aggressive one. A choice on whether or not to sink down to the level of these road ragers, or let them go.
When challenged, be it walking on the street or while driving, it’s natural to want to take these people on. Especially when they are basically using their car to insult and disrespect you. Not doing so requires a high degree of mental toughness.
Admittedly, the art of “letting it go” is one that I clearly have not yet entirely mastered. There have been more than a few times when I have implemented combat breathing to bring the agitation meter back down.
It’s a simple exercise in which you inhale for four seconds then exhale for four seconds. Repeat until you feel the calming effects of more oxygen in your body as well as removing your mind from the situation by counting.
Understand that the split-second decisions you make while driving cannot only affect you but everyone around you. The simple act of tailgating a teenage driver, as a form of retaliation for cutting you off, could quickly compound into a mass fatality accident.
Inhale 4 seconds, exhale 4 seconds… let it go.
Defensive Driving – Expect the Worst
Let’s face it, there surely seems to be more bad drivers on the road than good ones, which only adds to the necessity of being an extra diligent driver.
And don’t forget that car accidents are the number one cause of accidental deaths in America…
Defensive driving is the combination of situational awareness and utilizing a set of driving skills. You not only need to be aware of the environment, or the road ahead, but what’s happening behind and to your sides.
In addition, you must anticipate dangerous situations, and be prepared to respond without hesitation to the carelessness or recklessness of others. You must:
- Scan the road ahead and plan for the unexpected.
- Have an eye on any vehicle signals, indicators and brake lights.
- Be able to control speed – don’t drive too fast or too slowly.
- Expect other drivers to make mistakes and be prepared to react.
- Be aware of driving in special road and weather conditions.
- Avoid “‘car bunches.” That’s when moving cars are bottlenecked, although going at regular speed, yet occupying all lanes.
- While driving behind larger vehicles, keep your line of sight clear.
- Scan the road for any bicycles, motorcycles, pedestrians, potholes, and animals.
- Never drive in someone’s blind spot.
- Always maintain an exit route, by keeping at least a 2 second gap (buffer zone) from the vehicle in front of you and space on both sides of your vehicle free.
The last tip above is the most important when it comes to defensive driving. By maintaining distance from other vehicles, it will give you time and options on how to avoid and react.
Careful and defensive driving is nearly always your safest way to get from one place to another.
But not always. There may be a time when driving “road rage style” is your best bet. Not because you’re angry, but because you’re being purposefully pursued, and stopping is not an option.
Taking flight in a vehicle is a risky scenario. You are attempting to drive a very heavy object at a high rate of speed, which doesn’t give the same time to make decisions. Yet each move has serious ramifications if you make the wrong choice.
The foundation for evasive driving is to know the vehicle you are driving: How it handles, turns, brakes, and accelerates.
Factors such as the vehicle’s handle weight transfer must be known, which means how the vehicle responds at a quick turn from left to right. In this case, will the car “under steer” (front end gives way or skids in a turn) or “over steer,” meaning the rear end gives way or spins out during a turn.
Follow these steps for ways to avoid accidents and drive more vigilantly and safely. The better you know your vehicle, the more effective you will be behind the wheel.
Be a survivor… not a statistic,
Former Navy SEAL / 4Patriots Contributor