Ask most professional driving instructors what lesson they would most like to impart to their students, and it’s likely they’d say that being a confident, calm and respectful driver will mean less stress, less damage to the car, and ultimately, less accidents.
A recent survey released by the insurer AAMI shows that there were almost 150 assaults recorded between drivers on Victorian roads in 2012 to 2013, and 74 cases of property (car) damage. They also found that around half of those surveyed had experienced some form of road rage incident against them – including tailgating and verbal abuse.
Obviously road rage has become a regular feature of driving today. While it is predominantly seen in cities where driving conditions are less than ideal – especially with narrow streets and lots of cars – road rage incidents also happen on freeways and in the country.
Learning how to drive and operate a car should be the number one goals of any driver training and education, but it is also critical that first time learners are taught to be safe drivers. Drivers need to understand:
- Their own reactions to stressful situations. Knowing that you may become frustrated or angry can help you avoid certain triggers or learn how to best manage them;
- How to calm themselves if they feel they are becoming frustrated or angry whilst driving; and
- Ways to protect themselves in a road rage situation.
Be A Courteous Driver
This may sound easy enough to do, however when placed in a stressful and potentially dangerous situation, it’s natural to become nervous, anxious and even angry. The most important thing to remember is that you have the power to diffuse many bad driving situations by simply being polite and courteous, even if the other driver is visibly angry or verbally rude. Even though you may feel like winding down your window and yelling insults at another driver, making an obscene hand gesture or honking the horn, count to ten and take a deep breath – just remember, the less hostile or angry you are, the less hostile and angry the situation will become. Making eye contact with an angry driver is possibly one of the worst things you can do as it can be enough reason for someone to think you’re challenging them.
Even at the best of times driving can be a little stressful. For example, feeling rushed or thinking that you’ll be late for an appointment can make drivers do silly and potentially dangerous things such as cutting other drivers off at roundabouts or speeding down narrow streets. Always leave yourself enough time to drive somewhere and arrive on time. If you’re not sure of the route, always plan your drive before you leave the house. GPS systems can be useful for avoiding potentially stressful mistakes. Above all, think of driving as though you’re walking down a street: you wouldn’t cut people off, speed up to walk closely behind them or become furious if they accidently walk in front of you.
If you do become frustrated easily, some experts recommend playing relaxing music in the car for reducing overall stress levels while driving.
Keep Yourself Safe At All Times
If you do find yourself being confronted by another driver, lock the car doors and if possible maintain a reasonable distance between your car and the other driver’s car. Never leave the car for any reason. If you do feel that you’re being tailgated, followed or if a driver approaches your car in a threatening manner, call the police or drive to the closest police station.