Articles

How to steer clear of road rage and stay calm behind the wheel 

5 minutes

Research suggests road rage is on the rise. Motoring journalist Sue Baker explores the topic with experts.

  • Nearly 60 per cent have experienced a verbal attack while driving
  • Only 6 per cent of road rage incidents are reported to police
  • Road rage can cost you time and leave you frazzled 

Increased driver awareness can reduce road rage 

Traffic got you in a tizz? Been shouted at on the way to work? You're not alone. According to a 2017 poll by Tyre Shopper, most of us have experienced road rage. In fact, more than 70 per cent of drivers have been on the receiving end of a rude or threatening gesture from another motorist.

So how can you stay calm amidst all the angst? Sue Baker (@carscribe‏) asks experts in motoring safety and anger management for guidance on how to defuse a heated situation on the road.




What can drivers do before their journey to keep their cool on the road?

‘Plan your journey – you are less likely to be stressed because you know where you are going,’ says Peter Rodger, head of driving advice at IAMRoadSmart (@IAMRoadSmart) and a former deputy head of driver training at the Metropolitan Police. ‘You can use Google Streetview on the web to see what junctions look like, which can help with the navigation on the trip. 

‘Allow plenty of time – being late for something can be stressful. Anticipate bad traffic and build in time, rather than assuming the journey will run as smoothly as silk and then getting stressed when it doesn’t.

‘Give the kids something to keep them occupied so they aren’t pestering you and winding you up. Talk yourself into the journey and set a positive and upbeat atmosphere about the trip in your own mind before you start.’ 




How can we stay aware on the roads and avoid potential road rage situations?

‘If someone is driving badly, be aware that it's bad driving going on, and not someone trying to get you,’ advises Marian Liebmann, an experienced professional mediator with Bristol Mediation (@BristMediation). ‘Don't think of it as a vendetta.

‘If you come across a problem on the road, try to solve it – don't get angry about it. If someone gets angry with you, stay calm. Do not respond like-for-like because that just escalates things.’

Peter says awareness is something we all need to constantly develop.

‘The earlier you see things, the easier driving - and staying calm on the road - becomes,’ he says. ‘Develop looking further ahead and further behind in the mirror. Be regular and systematic in how you drive and have a structure. This not only makes you more predictable for others, it means you can concentrate better on what is going on.

‘Remember your fellow road users may be stressed, new to driving, struggling with an area they don’t know or driving an unfamiliar car. Be ready to allow for them – it might feel as though you're making yourself a pushover at first, but you’ll soon find that driving becomes less stressful, and puts you more in control.’




How can you manage your frustration if something happens while you're driving?

‘Cars can be dangerous, so if someone is behaving badly, just move aside and let them go,’ says Marian. ‘Take no notice if someone is gesticulating through a window.’

Driving expert Peter reminds us that ‘losing it’ costs time.

‘Having an argument is time you aren’t travelling,’ he says. ‘Always look out for what you can do to make things better. Learn what keeps you positive as an individual rather than blaming another person.’




How can you calm the situation if someone's being confrontational?

‘Look for a win-win solution,’ Marian says. ‘If another driver is angry because he or she says you are blocking their way, then suggest that you both back off. Try to get to a situation where both of you are on the same side, rather than being against each other.’

Peter advises turning the other cheek.

‘Avoid staring back at an aggressor or making a comment as someone walks away having harangued you,’ he says. ‘Don’t do anything that might reignite the conflict.’

If the confrontation is because you've both been in a collision, make sure you exchange car insurance details.




What's the best way to manage a situation where another driver has lost their temper?

‘If somebody shouts at you through the window, apologise if you think it's appropriate to do so,’ says Marian. ‘Don't interrupt an angry person, wait until they have finished, then try and discuss it calmly – asking what the problem is can switch them over from anger.’

Peter agrees.

‘Apologising can be very disarming, especially if you do it before the other party speaks,’ he says. ‘Then, when it is time to drive away, you need to push the incident out of your mind. Different things will work for different people. You could concentrate on your driving, have soothing music on the radio, or get your passengers to talk about something else – definitely not the incident – so you're not dwelling on the event.’

If you're still struggling with your road rage, Peter suggest taking an advanced driving course.

‘It will really help avoid you becoming involved in the incidents that generate road rage in the first place,’ he says.

Planning your route makes a real difference to how much you enjoy your drive, but if you do find yourself in a potential road rage situation, stay in control – it’s more likely to keep the other person calm and get you on the move again. If the situation escalates, and you have a dashcam, make sure you keep it running. Call the police as soon as it is safe to do so.