By Megan Marples | CNN
Drivers swerve erratically while on their phones or dart dangerously around other cars. The blaring of the horns keeps you on your toes as traffic backs up. It is enough to test one’s patience.
In some cases, these feelings can lead to road rage, aggressive driving caused by stress, or anger behind the wheel.
It often happens when drivers feel belittled, like another car cutting them off abruptly, said Ryan Martin, a psychology professor and associate dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.
Some people express their anger on the road, such as 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.”
“Because they’re angry, frustrated, and annoyed, they make worse decisions than they would otherwise,” he said, “and all those bad decisions can lead to accidental injury, injury, or death.”
Others bring the stress of feeling at home or at work when driving, and something small can prompt them to drive aggressively, said Emanuel Robinson, a psychologist and practice leader and senior research scientist for the Center of Human Performance and Safety. in Batelle. The organization is a non-profit organization that focuses on applied scientific and technological research.
The power of anonymity
Many drivers feel anonymous on the road, prompting them to take actions they wouldn’t otherwise, Robinson said.
“A person wouldn’t just walk to the front of a row they just got in,” he said. “It would be very unusual.”
Often, when driving, people take on a character that is more aggressive and bold than what is socially acceptable because they think they are unrecognizable and they won’t see the other drivers again.
Drivers may also have a false sense that certain actions, such as braking hard to slow down and then pulling away, are easy and safe to perform, Martin said.
“The irony is that it’s not safe at all,” he said, “and very real consequences can emerge.”
Calming your road rage
When you’re angry, you often have trouble seeing a situation from a different perspective, Robinson said. In those moments, start by taking a deep breath and not reacting right away, he said.
There’s also the idea that you assume the worst in others and blame their personality, Robinson said, rather than attributing faults in yourself to external factors.
“This person cut me off because they are a bad person,” he said. “But if I cut someone off, I’ve made a mistake.”
Listening to soothing music or podcasts while driving can also be relaxing, Robinson said. It’s hard to get mad when you’re captivated by a podcast because you’re focused on listening to it, he said.
Finally, if traffic jams on highways are causing anger and stress, try taking an equivalent route on local roads with fewer cars if possible, Robinson said.
If you notice a pattern of aggressive driving, come up with coping strategies before hitting the road, Martin said.
“Driving is one of the worst times to deal with your anger because you’re not thinking clearly,” he said.
Drivers can plan ahead of time how they will respond, Martin said. For example, if another driver cuts them off, they’re going to fool themselves into thinking they’re the kind of person to let it go, he said.
In addition, you should leave earlier when driving to a destination to limit the stress that can arise from being late, Martin added.
If you find yourself behind schedule, take a deep breath and avoid thoughts like, “Traffic is going to ruin my day,” he said.
“Yeah, this is frustrating, but it’ll really just slow me down,” Martin told yourself, “and that’s not the worst thing in the world.”
™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia company. All rights reserved.