Search for ‘road rage’ on YouTube, and you’ll find over 6.5 million videos of drivers losing it at the wheel (and unfortunately for them, on camera). And while some videos might seem funny, they all highlight the same serious issue — and that’s just how many of us are affected by road rage when we climb into the driving seat.
For years now, Britain has been ranked the worst country in the world for road rage, with four in five motorists having lost their temper while driving. Traffic jams, tailgating and bad driving are just some of the things which can make people see red at the wheel. Getting into the car in a bad mood can make you more susceptible to stress on the road as well.
April is Stress Awareness Month here in the UK, a time when healthcare professionals come together to raise awareness for the modern epidemic that is stress. So, in honour of this important event, we’re here to provide 12 ways drivers can cope with stress when they’re out on the open road.
1. Try to Plan Alternatives to Driving Every Day
The more you drive in bad traffic and tailbacks, the more of a frustrating chore it will become, and you’ll carry this resentment with you the next time you get in your car. See if you can take one day a fortnight or even a month when you do something different – work from home, get the train, or perhaps even car share with someone so that there’s another person in the car to share the irritations of the road and keep you calm.
2. Plan Plan Plan
There’s nothing like being in a rush to bring on a bout of road rage, so always give yourself plenty of time and anticipate that you might hit back traffic. The pressure of time ticking by never does any favours for your mood, so check the traffic before you travel and aim to give yourself double the time to reach your destination. It’s also worth checking out your route before you set off and understanding what your alternatives are should a road ahead be blocked – trying to negotiate an alternative route with lots of traffic while your sat nav is barking instructions isn’t conducive to calm driving.
3. Remember That Driving Isn’t a Competition
Karma, fate or ‘what goes around comes around’ — call it what you will, but there’s a lot to be said for showing other road users the same courtesy you expect from them. By making a conscious effort to be a considerate driver and not go into situations aggressively, you’ll not only take the moral high ground, but keep your stress levels to a minimum. Take a deep breath rather than brandishing an angry gesture or using your horn. Everyone on the road has somewhere to be, and by understanding that, you’ll be able to relax and stay calm at the wheel.
4. Take a Break
Whether making breakfast in a busy kitchen or sitting in a queue of traffic, tiredness can make even the very best of us cranky. If you didn’t get enough sleep before a long drive, take a break every two hours to wake yourself up and keep those feelings of stress at bay. Even just a simple five-minute leg stretch will be enough to ease tension and clear your head, ready for another spell on the busy motorway.
5. Switch Off Your Phone
With the penalty for using your phone while driving now hiked to six points and a £1,000 fine, it’s worth just switching it off as soon as you get in the car. Even if you’re not touching it, the sound of it buzzing away in the centre console is distracting enough, and can stress you out when you should be concentrating on the road ahead. Letting things annoy you over the phone and discussing work issues which you might not be able to solve straight away is an added stress which you don’t need.
6. Look Further Down the Road
Road rage is often brought on by other drivers doing unexpected things on the road ahead, be it a badly-timed turn in the road or pulling out of a junction without waiting to see how fast your car is travelling. By looking further down the road and being aware of upcoming hazard spots, you’ll be better placed to deal with these moments of madness, keeping your heart rate down and your stress at a minimum. Sudden surprises like these can be extremely stressful, but just keep in mind that the other driver hasn’t done it specifically to annoy you.
7. Keep Your Distance from Aggressive Drivers
Some drivers simply don’t have the capacity to be calm at the wheel, and take it upon themselves to let this stress out in the form of aggressive, reckless driving. Encounter one of these stressed-out petrol heads on the road, and you should try to keep your distance, allowing them to pass without losing your cool. The last thing you want is to become embroiled in a road rage incident with a driver who looks destined to be the next Ronnie Pickering.
8. Give Bad Drivers the Benefit of the Doubt
Bad driving can be a bitter pill to swallow, especially if someone has just cut you up, pulled out in front of you or tried to squeeze into a gap in traffic that’s just not there. But, while it can be tempting to give these offenders a quick blast of your horn, it’s better to give them the benefit of the doubt and accept that it was probably just an accident. Show people a little courtesy in moments like this by giving them the space they need to rectify their mistake, and they’ll likely thank you with a quick wave or flash of their hazards, diffusing a potentially angering situation.
9. Choose the Right Music
The environment in your car can influence your mood without you even realising it. Listening to maddening news reports or sitting in an uncomfortable position can increase your irritation, whereas being comfortable and listening to music you enjoy and can sing along to could help to lower your blood pressure.
10. Keep Your Car Full of Fuel and in Good Condition
If you’re sat in a traffic jam with the fuel light blinking at you from the dashboard, this is going to do nothing to help your nerves, and you’ll remain stressed all the way to the fuel station. Try to top your car up before you’re running on empty to avoid the stress of having to find a fuel station at a minute’s notice. It’s also a good idea to keep your car in a good condition, ensuring all fluids are topped up regularly so you aren’t suddenly faced with a dashboard warning light or a very dirty windscreen — both of which could send your stress levels through the roof.
11. Focus on the Consequences
And if all else fails and you still find driving stressful, think about all you stand to lose if you don’t control your temper. Your licence, your freedom, perhaps even your job? Think of the bigger picture and take steps to keep your anger in check.
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