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Road Rage: Leave Mad Max at the Curb

Road rage has become an epidemic on highways and byways across the nation. Angry, stressed-out drivers taking out their aggressions behind the wheel may be one of the most dangerous highway hazards any driver has to handle. Do you know of anyone, including yourself, who hasn’t been ticked off by a tailgater, a lane hog, or someone who won’t move over to let you onto the highway? Admit it, haven’t you sometimes dreamed of, or even indulged in, some minor retaliation, such as a loud beep or an offensive gesture?

We often excuse such behavior by saying that it’s just a way of letting off a little steam, calming us down so that we can get back to concentrating on our normally safe driving. Unfortunately, however, nowadays an angry response may be like waving a red cape in front of a bull. It could get you in real trouble with some other driver who’s madder than you are.

In most jurisdictions now, driving aggressively results in automatically doubled fines and other penalties such as forfeiture of drivers license or even incarceration. Some states are beginning to address some of the “triggers” of road rage such as the slow drivers in the fast” lanes. For instance, as of June 1, 2013, Florida’s new “road rage” law makes it illegal for motorists to drive more than 10 miles below the speed limit in the left lane of a multiple-lane road or highway if another car is coming up behind them.

Those that question this new law do so because they only look at it from one perspective. It isn’t meant to give a green light to those driving too fast, its giving a red light to those who feel that it is their job to slow the speeder down by refusing to move out of the way. Tempers flare, and the “enforcer” slows even more as the impatient speeder begins tailgating. Things escalate further, and eventually spiral out of control.

The Reasoning Behind the Madness

Behavior experts have come up with a number of possible explanations for road rage. The most common theory is that the stresses of everyday life, both on and off the job, have become so intense that they lead to a coping mechanism of which people may not even be aware . The thought process is usually something like this:

“My boss is always on my case. I get no cooperation or assistance from my co-workers. I’m not getting the attention and support I want from my boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, kids, or friends. By the time I’ve paid for Gas prices, bills, car payment, mortgage and taxes, there’s nothing left from my paycheck. But when I’m in my car, I’M in charge, and I’M not letting anybody push me around. So you’d better stay out of my way!”

What to Do About It

When this kind of attitude occurs on the road, whether it’s yours or another driver’s, it only makes sense to focus on managing your feelings rather than expressing them. Ask yourself whether your true goal is to win some sort of competition with other drivers on the road, to get where you’re going a couple of minutes earlier, or to get there in one piece by maintaining a cool head rather than by being a hothead.

Assuming you arrive at the commonsense answer to that question, then what? Concentrate on not allowing the situation to escalate. Don’t allow either your own anger or the other driver’s to put your safety, or that of others, at risk. Remind yourself that the more courteous driver is the better driver. So, yield the right-of-way even to someone who is obviously proceeding in an inappropriate way. Then, congratulate yourself on having been wise enough to avoid a confrontation in what very likely could have been a lose-lose situation.

Of course, you can feel free to smirk when you pass them further up the road where they got pulled over by the local constabulary.

Its a Choice YOU Make

Taking the high road- choosing sensible behavior- may be easier said than done, of course, but it will be well worth the effort. You’ll know you’ve used mature, sound judgment. You can even feel a little superior to the idjit who cut you off. You’ll have decreased your stress level, and most important of all, you’ll be safer for the rest of your journey.

Of course, all the information we’ve just covered applies to your employees as well as to you. So, be sure to share it with them. In the case of employees driving vehicles emblazoned with your company name or logo, consider the public relations implications and possible legal consequences should your employees drive aggressively.

Road rage is like a contagious disease. Protect yourself and your employees from it with safe driving information that will help your people control their behavior on the road and steer clear of any obviously “infected” drivers.Tomorrow we’ll review defensive driving strategies that will help employees handle raging drivers, distracted drivers, and other road hazards.

Categories: Safety, Training
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