The Ultimate Guide to Eliminating Road Rage

road-rageYour road rage can build trying to get to and from work. It’s a double edged pain. Even those of you who work from home you still have to fight through traffic to get to meetings, dropping your kids off or catching a plane. You can’t escape the car culture that we live in. We are dependent on cars. Maybe one day we can sit in hydrogen powered pods that take us to our destination as we play with our iPhones, but for now we are stuck with driving our cars.

I’m writing about road rage because of my own issues with my commute. I used to get really pissed off at anyone who didn’t match my style of driving. It was pretty sad really. The rage can come on fast. Sometimes I don’t even notice it and all of a sudden I’m screaming. This doesn’t happen very often anymore because I can offset these feelings quickly, but it took one particular reframe to make it happen.

I researched some statistics and found some cool ones. This one is a bit old, but one of my favorites:

“A 1995 study performed by the Road Safety Unit of the Automobile Association of Great Britain found that 90 percent of the drivers surveyed had experienced “road rage” incidents during the preceding 12 months. In this study, 60 percent of drivers admitted to losing their tempers behind the wheel during the previous year, and one percent claimed they had been physically assaulted by another motorist.” from AAA Foundation for Driver’s Safety

You face this rage probably every time you get in the car. Just think of how many people you pass to and from work each week. If you live in a city like I do, it’s easily in the thousands. There are plenty of different kinds of drivers to spark your rage.

My Story

I finally had enough with my anger when I lashed out screaming obscenities at an older lady. As I stared down and passed by this older lady, I realized I was way out of line.

I couldn’t believe that I let my anger take over like that. All she was doing was driving 5 miles below the speed limit. She wasn’t kicking puppies for fun, she was just driving the way she felt safe.

After I got home I realized that the older lady was probably someone’s grandmother. How would I feel if my grandmother was yelled at by some guy because he was late to work?

I vowed to change my ways.

How

To change your perspective takes practice. You can’t just turn off the little anger switch every time you are commuting to work. You’ve got to work with these feelings, slowly massaging your way to a more gentle and happier driver.

What you can do is use a simple technique that encourages you to let go of your anger and bring yourself back to an emotional center.

Grandmothers

As you know my anger had me lashing out at an old lady, which I realized could have been my grandmother. So I used this information to keep my anger in check.

I realized that thinking of each person as my grandmother I could relax my anger and keep myself emotionally grounded.

Next time I felt anxious to get to work, a meeting or the airport and I was about to lash out I imagined my grandmother behind the wheel. It nipped my anger in the bud. I stopped letting my anger take over.

Even if it’s not an old lady, I realize that every person is just trying to do what they feel is right. They all have friends and family that care for them. Even if it’s some crazy dude with a long beard, he might be the coolest dad to his two son’s. Each person has an inner grandmother (AKA their caring side). I just try to visualize the person as a caring old grandmother who fusses over her grandchildren when I’m feeling road rage come on.

Your Rage

Your road rage usually comes from a place of frustration. You don’t want to deal with your boss or you don’t want to work on a certain project. The issue is not some jerk of a guy. It’s how you let yourself feel about this guy. This issue is for another post but know that you can only deal with the situation in that moment.

Your stress can hold you back from enjoying your co-workers or even send you to the emergency ward, so it’s your job to set up your commute so you are optimally happy when you walk in the door. It’s a lot easier to impress a coaching client when I show up calm, happy and centered.

Your Turn

Who can you imagine the other drive who is pushing your anger over the edge? (e.g. grandmother, 2nd grade teacher, old neighbor down the street)

How can you remind yourself to practice this concept before you commute to work? (i.e. write yourself a note and stick it to your radio.)

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Image courtesy of PDXdj

11 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Eliminating Road Rage”

  1. Thanks for this Karl! I now have to bear a long commute and needed this reminder and set of great tips. Sometimes I can find my zen place or really rock out to some classic rock, but sometimes it seems impossible to calm down and I think the grandma tip is really going to help.

  2. Carl,
    Great article. I’m lucky that I work from home most of the time but I used to commute long distances every day of the week when a regional manager. I think putting ourselves in the shoes of the other driver is a great way to alleviate road rage. I think road rage not just from frustration but is a symptom of our self centered culture that promotes attitudes like: climbing over others to get to the top and look out for for number one, etc., as well.

  3. Hi Devon, A long commute can be draining on the soul if you aren’t careful. Music is a great trigger to stay relaxed or have fun with the situation. Let me know how the Grandma reframe works. Remember to create a reminder like a post-it that says “Use the Grandma Reframe”. The reminder will help you use the technique when you need it the most.

  4. Hi Karl — I think that’s a great point, that keeping in mind the humanity of the people we’re dealing with, as opposed to turning them into monsters or tyrannical parent-figures or something like that, is a great source of perspective.

  5. Hi Karl,

    Great article. I don’t drive, but as a pedestrian in a city I see some pretty bone-headed actions from drivers and pedestrians alike. I agree with Angela–a lot of road rage (and pedestrian rage)is indeed a symptom of a self-centred culture that not only promotes a sense of entitlement and climbing over others to get to the top, but also a great deal of impatience. We want our own way, and we want it now. I would suggest slowing down, giving ourselves more than enough time to get to places (then we don’t get antsy if we hit an unexpected traffic snarl or accident), and being mindful. I see an awful lot of careless driving stemming from distracted driving (talking on cellphones, among other activities).

    A couple of things I’d offer for keeping in mind when getting impatient with older drivers: (1) older people often have cataracts that are starting to affect their vision, so in conditions where there is a lot of glare, it’s more difficult to see, and (2) older people may not realize that driving too much under the speed limit can also create hazards on the road.

    The craziest and scariest (and noisiest!) traffic I’ve ever encountered is in India. Just being a passenger in a car was a hair raising adventure on some days. If you’ve ever seen any movies filmed in India, you sort of get an idea, but you have to really see, hear, and experience it first hand to fully believe it. Just imagine what traffic looks–and sounds–like in a city of roughly 16 million (Delhi) with thousands of cars, scooters, auto-rickshaws (motorized 3 wheel rickshaws), buses, trucks, etc, all honking as they are trying to pass each other, change lanes, and swerve around cows and other livestock wandering around on the roads. Despite the apparent chaos and insanity, it didn’t seem like there was the same kind of road rage that we see here.

  6. Great insight Karl. I wish more people thought this way. I do this when I see young men in the news. Or a young man playing sports and the crowd is screaming at him. That is someone’s little boy. Just a person, trying to do the best he can, never dreaming of a life filled with pain or of never measuring up to society. As a 3 boy mama, my heart goes out to anyone the culture deems “bad,” and more often than not, it’s a male getting bashed. I love that you shared this and it’s these kind of posts that can change the world!

  7. Hi Karl,
    I love the insight of this article. Road rage is just a way that we take out the frustrations that we have about the other areas of our life. We cannot avoid all instances of our momentum being broken–squirrels run across the road, birds fly in front of our windows and we don’t have road rage towards them. Maybe we can look at a care cutting off in the same way. It is just another thing that is braking our momentum by trying to get where it needs to go.

  8. The King of the Sky

    Hi Karl

    I totally agree with you — the source of road rage is frustration and, indeed, the other driver could trigger one’s emotional memory by linking the action with someone else who gets on one’s nerves!

    I offer one more insight: I refer to unresolved (emotional) issues as “ankle weights”. For example, if one has a strong sense of justice and fairness coupled with a repeat (pattern of experiences in one’s life) of having others get in one’s way (and hence, one loses out), that emotional wound is going to flare up if there is an inconsiderate driver on the road. The feeling will sound like, “Why do I have to suffer because a moron got in my way? How fair is it that he/she gets away with it while I suffer the consequences of his/her inconsiderate, moron-ic action?”. As along as this issue remains unresolved, this “ankle weight” will stop a person from living life to the fullest because of the negative emotions generated. My two cents worth…

  9. My mother actually has a problem with road rage. She will speed up and drive crazy when she gets angry at another driver. Life is good for me, and I don’t want to get into a wreck in the car with her, so I try my best not to ride with her.

  10. That looks like one angry cat.

    I’m a always amazed by what a different perspective can make. I’ve learned over the years that so many people are “right” from the view they are looking at, but not necessarily “right” when they take a look from the balcony.

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