Raging on the roads

Raging on the roads

Careless drivers, rash drivers, slow drivers, irresponsible drivers, and self-righteous drivers - they are all around us. Knowing how to deal with them can save time, inner-peace, and sometimes, even our life.

Nothing can be more infuriating than being stuck behind a slow driver in the middle of the road—one who refuses to budge despite your incessant honking. Or is it worse when you have to hear the strident blaring of a car horn and you have absolutely nowhere to move?

Careless drivers, rash drivers, slow drivers, irresponsible drivers, and self-righteous drivers—they are all around us. What do we do with them? Should we take them to one side and chastise them or hurl abuses as we speed past them? Or should we roll down our windows and gesture our disapproval? Maybe stepping on the accelerator and showing them who is the boss would do the trick. Looking at the latest statistics, it seems that all of the above options have already been exhausted.

Observing reckless behavior on the roads and feeling frustrated at the poor driving is completely normal. But, reacting to it with rage and losing your temper over it is unacceptable and alarming. For reasons often confounding, the road brings out the Hulk in us. We are constantly angry with this cacophony perhaps because we are not well-versed with the driving etiquette. We stop at red lights not because we care about lives, but because we fear the penalty, and in the worst-case scenario, confiscation of the driving licence.

According to a recent study, nearly 80 percent of drivers in the US experienced aggression behind the wheel in the recent past. Traffic rules don’t teach emotional intelligence. To put it simply, we do not know how to behave on roads. We fail to accept that these careless, rash, slow, irresponsible, and self-righteous drivers are, in fact, one of us.

Through no fault of anyone, we are often caught in unhelpful circumstances like heavy rains, seething heat, broken roads, or a huge truck parked on a narrow lane of a busy route. Such times can push even the best of drivers and riders to completely lose it. It is then when rage takes over and leads to wrong, regretful decisions.

Sometimes, if not always, all that’s needed to diffuse the tension on the road is to give each other the benefit of the doubt.

Accidents on the road are inevitable but the familiar phenomenon of road rage can be reduced if we understand and accept a few things about ourselves.

Most incidents could probably boil down to two basic elements—a bad decision resulting in an unfortunate outcome or an honest mistake coupled with a bad response. However, taking out your frustration on fellow travellers is not going to help anyone. Instead, acknowledging that we cannot control every situation can help put a lid on the outburst.

Reflecting on our anger, we may realise that road rage is just stress in disguise. It is easier to unleash pent-up anger at strangers than anyone else. The pitchforks come out as soon as we feel cornered. But there are other ways to deal with stress and the road is simply not the place to bring it out.

Stressful arguments can be avoided by taking proactive measures. For starters, try to manage the driving time by factoring in the possible delays. If we are not running late, we are less likely to be overly upset by traffic jams. A good frame of mind while driving can help as well. We are more likely to drive safely and not be distracted when in a good mood. So, do your best to ensure you’re not too upset before getting behind the wheel. In case you find yourself in the middle of an incident, acknowledge it with a quiet mind. A friendly gesture of raising your arm and smiling at the other driver can work wonders.

On the road, an innate animal instinct takes over us when someone tries to ‘invade our territory’. We react offensively when a reckless driver tries to cut lanes or overtake us. This dominating instinct manifests itself as aggressive, hostile behaviour. Ava Cadell, psychologist and instructor at the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco, agrees. “The heavy metal of a car is a safe haven. Road-ragers don’t think about the consequences or even about other people on the road as real people with real families.” A way to rein it in, is to be in their shoes and address the issue with empathy.

We can also offer them a benefit of doubt and accept that they probably made a mistake. Bad driving is a bitter pill to swallow, but by showing some courtesy to people instead of reacting in anger, we could avoid a potentially frustrating situation. Who knows, they might learn from their mistake and try to become a responsible driver, or perhaps they were going through a personal tragedy and would thank you for the unexpected kindness you displayed. Sometimes, if not always, all that’s needed to diffuse the tension on the road is to give each other the benefit of the doubt.

We always crib that the traffic is bad. What we conveniently forget is that we are the traffic. While road rage and hostile driving may be common, it doesn’t mean they are acceptable. Each of us is responsible for everything that conspires on the road. The decisions made en route are not without consequences.

On the road, the right decision can mean the difference between life and death.

Comments (2)
  • Ananda Kumar
    on December 4, 2016 at 10:15 pm

    Well said… at times a simple ‘u first’ policy helps massively too…

  • Puneet Kumar
    on November 7, 2017 at 2:12 pm

    I like the part about giving “…benefit of the doubt”. My frustration, as opposed to a person going through personal tragedy or life critical situation, is far less important.





Travel Diaries
Guest Contributors
Spiritual Leaders
Thought Leaders
Short Stories
Life Lessons