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Dealing with Road Rage and Stress On Your Commute

If you are like most drivers, there might be times that you leave late for the day and try to make up time on the road. Maybe you have pushed the speed limit or zoomed ahead to get in front of a slower car.

If you frequent areas with road construction you know that extreme slowdowns can pop out from nowhere! What a very frustrating surprise on your commute.

Maybe driving on congested roads just makes you nervous in general.

Here are 12 helpful tips for safer driving:

  • Don’t get in the car angry.

This makes you more likely to experience the hostile attribution bias - the tendency to interpret others’ actions as hostile. This is a risk factor for retaliatory aggressive driving.

  • Try to get enough sleep.

Getting enough zz’s makes it easier to pay attention and concentrate, making your drive less stressful overall.

  • Plan to leave a bit earlier than usual.

This seems obvious, but try thinking through your morning routine before going to bed at night. Realistically estimate how long each task will take, and round up if you tend to run late. Getting up in time to do everything you need to get organized for the day will make it much less likely you will have to speed to get in on time.

  • Check the traffic before you go.

Map your route on your phone using GoogleMaps, AppleMaps, Waze, or other map apps. Catch the traffic report on the quarter hour through local radio stations or local TV news. In the Hampton Roads area you can dial 511 on your phone or tune to 1680 AM on your radio for the latest updates.

  • Listen to music, an audiobook, or a podcast that you enjoy.

Before hitting the road, find a good radio station or playlist. You could also download a few episodes of a podcast and cue them up to play one after the other. And audiobooks are getting more popular than ever! Check out,,, and others for great digital content. Most local libraries have audiobooks, too, which can be accessed with CDs or through digital services such as Hoopla. Try to find a way to enjoy your time in the car.

  • Place a relaxing picture on your dashboard.

Maybe you have a photo on your phone’s lock screen that brings you joy. Why not print it and stick it to your dashboard?

  • Give yourself a little space.

It’s a good idea to leave more space between you and the vehicle in front of you. If you have to stop suddenly, you are less likely to crash into someone else.

  • Notice what your triggers are.

Does it just drive you nuts when someone zips to the end of a lane that’s ending and then tries to merge? Do you hate really loud car exhausts? Does your blood boil if someone honks at you?

Half the battle is knowing what your triggers are. The other half is to do something productive about it when they happen.

Take a deep breath and count backwards slowly from 5. Think for a moment about the peace you will feel pulling into your driveway that night. There’s honestly no use in letting it get to you. It doesn’t make the traffic better anyways, right?

  • Avoid obscene gestures, aggressive eye contact, and yelling.

The road is no place to start a fight. Other drivers may be watching you and could target you if they feel provoked. Even if you are venting to yourself, this might be perceived as a threat.

  • Consider the cost of an accident.

Nobody wants a huge bill from the auto shop. Worse yet there could be medical fees, tow fees, rental fees while your car is being repaired, and more. Not to mention that your insurance could go up. What a hassle. It’s not worth it.

  • Remember that other people on the road want to get home safely, too.

For the same reason people troll posts on the internet, it is easy to act out on the road and never have to be accountable for your actions. Let’s not forget that those other cars on the road are full of our neighbors, friends, coworkers, our kids’ classmates, and other members of our community. Yes, it’s considerate to think of everyone making it to their jobs, appointments, schools, etc. on time. But it is even more important to keep the roads safe so everyone makes it home at the end of the day.

While it’s definitely best to drive safely, it’s impossible to control what other drivers do. Here are 6 tips for staying away from aggressive drivers on the road.

  • Drive predictably and mindfully.

Be in tune to what you are doing. If you have a turn coming up, put your signal on and give yourself time to change lanes. If a large truck is trying to get over and you notice you might be in their blind spot, move out of the way. If you prefer to drive slower, use the right lane. The more you cooperate with the social norms of the road, the less likely someone will crash into you.

  • Honk only if absolutely necessary.

It is ok to give a quick beep to signal to someone that you are letting them over. However, it’s less helpful to lay on the horn if someone pulls in front of you unexpectedly. Even if it was rude, try to avoid excessive honking.

  • Stay away from angry motorists if you see them.

If you notice a driver weaving through traffic and making risky maneuvers, just give them some space. If they are going to cause a wreck, it’s better not to be part of it.

  • Ignore provocative behavior.

This is a tough one, but try not to take the bait. Aggressive drivers don’t usually find a moment of zen after someone responds to their bad behavior.

  • Don’t pull over or stop in a parking lot.

Whatever you do, don’t respond to tailgating by taking an exit and parking. This could give the offending driver the message that you want to fight. Just let them by and keep driving.

  • Report road rage to the authorities or drive to your nearest police station if you feel you are being followed.

If you believe a car is following you, this could be a serious safety risk. Alert the police or drive to a police station. The other car is likely to move along when you pull into the parking lot of the precinct.

Happy driving and stay safe out there!

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