U.S. commuters in urban areas lose on average 54 hours per year to traffic delays due to clogged highways, according to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s 2019 Urban Mobility Report. Among the country’s 15 most heavily trafficked roadways, that average spikes to a whopping 83 hours. That’s nearly three and a half days stuck in traffic!
The numbers alone are stressful enough. You might not be able to control traffic, but you can control the way you react to it. We’ll explain what road rage is, what causes it, and how to prevent road rage so you can find your zen while you’re stuck in traffic.
What Is Road Rage?
Driving in traffic, long commutes and aggressive drivers can be frustrating on the road, but it becomes road rage when stress and frustration turn into violent anger.
Road rage can include rude gestures, verbal insults, driving unsafely on purpose, making threats, and even harming someone else in a confrontation. Know the signs from you and other drivers to prevent dangerous driving, accidents, and unwanted confrontations.
Signs that you may be experiencing road rage:
- Thought of condemnation or violence toward another driver or drivers
- Not obeying traffic laws because you don’t agree with them
- Verbally condemning other drivers
- Engaging in aggressive driving, including:
- Following too close
- Changing lanes quickly and often
- Cutting between vehicles when changing lanes
- Flashing lights
- Making gestures
They may not be behaviors you would like to admit, but these are all signs of road rage. If you see other drivers with this behavior, the smartest thing to do is back off. It’s usually not personal but could escalate if the person is angry.
Causes of Road Rage
It’s obvious that frustration and stress are both the beginning factors of road rage, but road rage happens when drivers feel they have been insulted by others on the road. Other common causes of road rage are:
- Slow drivers
- Sitting in the middle lane
- Getting cut off
- Lack of politeness
- Pedestrians and cyclists
Avoid Aggressive Driving
To avoid road rage while on the road, take some precautions and prepare for unexpected scenarios on the road.
- Stay calm and avoid anger on the road
- Don’t tell or make obscene gestures
- Always signal when changing lanes and use your horn sparingly
- Don’t drive too closely to other drivers
- Don’t compete on the road
- Don’t take other drivers’ actions personally
- Plan ahead for your trips so you have plenty of time to reach your destination
To avoid other drivers’ aggression on the road, follow these steps:
- Don’t react to another driver’s aggression and avoid eye contact
- Don’t be tempted to fight — stay calm
- Lock your doors
- If confronted, go to the nearest police station if you feel threatened
- In congested areas, leave enough room to pull out behind cars you are following
How to Prevent Road Rage
If you or someone you know identifies with the signs of road rage, rest assured there are ways to control road rage and prevent road rage attacks. Here are eight things that can help stop road rage in its tracks.
1. Just Breathe
Deep breathing is a helpful way to alleviate tension in any situation, and it certainly comes in handy if you want to prevent road rage. Instead of stressing out the next time someone tailgates you, cuts you off, or lays on their horn, focus on your breath and the road ahead. Pay attention to your breath as you fill up your lungs, and as you exhale.
2. Curate a Driving Soundtrack
Research suggests that music can affect your mood, heart rate, and blood pressure while driving. Researchers put participants in a simulated traffic jam, which caused cardiovascular activity to spike. Cardiovascular activity increased even more among those listening to aggressive music or no music at all. However, participants who listened to soothing music experienced reduced cardiovascular activity.
If you find yourself routinely wound up while driving, try listening to a relaxing playlist, audiobook, or podcast. It can provide a safe level of distraction from the frustration of your commute. Just try not to listen to any deep relaxation or meditation recordings — you’re trying to stay calm, not fall asleep behind the wheel!
Splitting the driving responsibilities with your spouse, neighbor, or coworker is a great way to prevent road rage. You’ll stress less, produce fewer carbon emissions, and save money on gas. You may even be able to bypass traffic if your commute includes an HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lane for carpoolers like you.
4. Be Proactive
Traffic is unpredictable, but you probably know how much time it generally takes you to get to work. Be proactive and see what else you can do you prevent traffic from being such a constant issue in your day-to-day.
- Budget a little extra time into your commute. If you do encounter a bumper-to-bumper backup, construction, or other delays, you’ll still be able to get to and from work in a reasonable amount of time.
- Experiment with leaving at different times or taking alternate routes. You may find that leaving your home just 15 minutes earlier or later makes a huge difference.
- Explore other ways to get to work. If the thought of sitting in stop-and-go traffic stresses you out, you might prefer taking side roads where traffic moves more steadily — even if it means going a few minutes out of your way.
- Anticipate delays, especially during inclement weather. Traffic is always worse when it rains, so budget in a little more travel time if you can.
5. Adjust Your Work Hours
Ask your boss if you can work from home one or two days a week or if you could come in earlier and leave earlier to avoid peak traffic times. Or, if you could avoid the worst traffic by leaving an hour earlier, but your work hours aren’t flexible, why not use that hour to work out or take a walk in your neighborhood before heading in?
6. Get Your Stretch On
Sometimes a good stretch is just what you need. Car yoga is a great way to find peace and tranquility on the road, as long as you’re not actively driving. One simple yet satisfying stretch you can do while you’re at a complete stop is a hand stretch. Reach your arms over the steering wheel and flex your hands, spreading your fingers. Hold for a few seconds, then stretch your wrists. Then, work through each of your fingers, bending them backward and forward to release tension. Don’t forget to breathe.
7. Remember That You’re in Control
Why let another driver who you don’t know and will likely never see again affect your mood? No matter how frustrating another driver’s actions may be, only you are responsible for how you react.
That said, if you do something that makes you feel like you’re not in control or another driver does something that makes you feel unsafe, pull over to a safe place to collect yourself. Safety is paramount, and being stressed out could affect your driving.
8. Change Your Perspective
What purpose do anger and frustration serve while you’re gridlocked? Soaring into a fit of road rage isn’t going to help you reach your destination any faster. Have you ever heard the saying that it’s not about what happens to you, but how you react to it? Instead of working yourself into a frenzy, assess your perspective. What can you change about your attitude to dial back the stress?
Don’t Stress Over Driving — or Your Insurance!
Traffic isn’t worth your worry, and neither is wondering whether you have the right car insurance. To get a free quote, call 1-877-GO-DIRECT (1-877-463-4732), click, or come into a Direct location near you.