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Stop Your Road Rage

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Stop Your Road Rage

While few of us engage in extreme road rage, many of us drive aggressively on a daily basis by running yellow lights, honking our horn, or yelling at "idiots." Learn how to stop these bad habits.

While there is no consensus on a definition of road rage, Leon James and Diane Nahl, professors at the University of Hawaii, define aggressive driving as “driving under the influence of impaired emotions, resulting in behaviour that imposes one’s own preferred level of risk on others.”

So who’s most likely to engage in aggressive driving behaviour? Studies have consistently shown that males and younger drivers are most likely to drive aggressively. However, a 2003 survey in Ontario showed that road rage existed across all age groups with the exception of seniors.

The number one reason drivers give for engaging in aggressive driving behaviour is stress. When we lose control emotionally and vent our anger, our bodies pay the price. Road rage is dangerous to our health.

Practise mindfulness

“One of the best ways to reduce chronic stress is through mindfulness meditation,” says Mark Fenske, associate professor at the University of Guelph. “Basically, meditation is about controlling your attention, but it’s also about controlling your emotional response. So with that kind of mental training, if someone does cut you off, you can just accept [the] for what it is and let it go. You don’t get hung up on the perceived threat.”

Good nutrition

Cognitive control takes a lot of energy. In order for our brain cells to fire, they need oxygen and glucose, just like a car needs oxygen and fuel. Limit fluctuations in blood sugar by eating small, frequent meals.

Extra tips

The following tips can help you de-stress your drive.

  1. Do a cost-benefit analysis. What are the costs of anger to your health, and what do you really get out of it?
  2. Learn to recognize your anger triggers—and nip them in the bud. If you feel yourself starting to get really angry, stop. Don’t let anger escalate out of control.
  3. Express anger appropriately. Be assertive when you need to be so you’re not aggressive on the road.
  4. Consider driving time “me” time. Use it for reflection; don’t view it as wasted time.
  5. Allow yourself plenty of time so delays or detours won’t set you off. Running late creates a heightened state of tension, and a small deviation from your plan can trigger an outburst.
  6. Expect people to do unexpected, annoying things while driving. Don’t be surprised when they happen. Accept them and let them go.
  7. Don’t assume that someone’s bad driving is directed at you personally. Maybe he’s had a bad day and just made a driving mistake. Give people the benefit of the doubt.
  8. Listen to music to provide a slight distraction. Your brain will focus on the music rather than on the idiot who just cut you off.
  9. Be a good driving role model for your children. If kids think your behaviour is acceptable, they internalize that value and are more likely to emulate it.

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