Driving in anger can harm drivers; here’s how to stay calm behind the wheel

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Drivers swerve erratically while on their phones or dangerously racing around other cars. The honking of horns keeps you on edge as traffic swells. All this is enough to test anyone’s patience.

In some cases, these feelings can lead to road rage, or aggressive driving caused by stress or anger behind the wheel.

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This often happens when drivers feel slighted, such as when another car cuts them off abruptly, said Ryan Martin, professor of psychology and associate dean at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

Some people express their road rage, like speeding around a car or stopping to get into a fight, said Martin, author of Why We Get Angry: How to Use Your Anger for Positive Change.

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“Because they are angry, frustrated and angry, some people make worse decisions than they would otherwise,” he said, “and all those bad decisions can lead to accidental injury, damage, or death.”

Others bring the stress they are feeling at home or at work while driving, and something small can cause them to drive aggressively, said Emanuel Robinson, a psychologist and practice leader and senior research scientist at the Center for Performance and Human Safety at Battelle.

The entity is a non-profit organization that focuses on applied research in science and technology.

The power of anonymity

Many drivers feel they are anonymous on the road, which leads them to take actions they wouldn’t otherwise do, Robinson said.

“A person wouldn’t just go to the front of a line they’ve just entered,” he said. “It would be very unusual.”

People often adopt a persona while driving that is more aggressive and rude than is socially acceptable because they don’t feel identifiable and won’t see other drivers again.

Drivers can also get a false sense that certain actions, like slamming on the brakes to slow down and then accelerate, are easy and safe to do, Martin said.

“The irony is that it’s not at all safe,” he said, “and there are very real consequences that can follow.”

Calming your road rage

When you’re angry, it’s often difficult to look at a situation from a different perspective, Robinson said. In these moments, start by taking a deep breath and not responding right away, he advised.

There’s also a notion that you assume the worst in others and blame their personality, Robinson said, rather than attributing flaws in yourself to external factors.

“This person has overtaken me because he is a bad person,” he said. “But if I overtake someone, I made a mistake.”

Listening to soothing music or podcasts while driving can also be relaxing, he said. It’s hard to get angry when fascinated by a podcast because you’re focused on listening to it, he said.

Finally, if traffic jams on the highways create anger and stress, try taking an equivalent route on local roads with fewer cars if possible, the psychologist said.

planning ahead

If you notice a pattern of aggressive driving, you should create coping strategies before hitting the road, Martin said.

“Driving is one of the worst times to try to deal with anger because you’re not thinking clearly,” he said.

Drivers can plan how they will react in advance, Martin said. For example, if another driver overtakes them, they’ll tell themselves they’re the kind of people who let it go, he said.

Also, leave early when driving to a destination to limit the stress that can come from being late, Martin added.

If you’re running late, take a deep breath and avoid thoughts like, “Traffic is going to ruin my day,” he said.

“Yes, that’s frustrating, but it’s really just going to slow me down,” Martin said to himself, “and that’s not the worst thing in the world.”

Source: CNN Brasil

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