Often it’s frightening. Sometimes it’s deadly.
Road rage – where flaring tempers mix with two-ton machines – continues to be a problem on America’s highways, leading to accidents, assaults and occasionally even murder.
It’s a perplexing problem in part because it can happen at anytime and anywhere that roads and vehicles are involved, yet specific statistics on its frequency are hard to come by.
All that aside, though, there are solutions that can at least reduce the number of road-rage incidents. People who are easily angered by slower drivers, detours and other traffic disruptions can be taught to be more aware of their responses and modify them to reduce accident risks, according to research published this year by the Society for Risk Analysis.
That let’s-calm-down approach is applauded by Scott Morofsky, author of the books “The Daily Breath: Transform Your Life One Breath at a Time” and “Wellativity: In-Powering Wellness Through Communication” (www.Wellativity.com).
“Sometimes there’s this tendency to throw on the brakes when someone is tailgating us, or use an obscene gesture at an aggressive driver,” says Morofsky, who developed the concept of Wellativity, which helps people address any behavior that inhibits wellness.
“But when you encounter an aggressive driver, you don’t want to engage them or do anything to further agitate them.”
What are some of our behaviors that can aggravate other drivers? The No. 1 culprit is drivers who are texting, according to a 2015 Road Rage Report by Expedia.com, the travel site. Those texting drivers upset 26 percent of us.
Other offenders, in descending order, are tailgaters, left-lane hogs, slow drivers and drivers multi-tasking.
Of course, those examples represent situations that can raise your ire after you are behind the wheel. Often, the foundation for fury on the highway was laid before you got into the car. Maybe you had an argument with someone earlier. Maybe you are stressed because you are running late for an appointment.
“Probably all of us at some time have been angry and someone wisely told us to take a deep breath,” Morofsky says. “That’s actually good advice because breathing and taking in oxygen plays an important role in every area of our health and well-being.”
Morofsky offers these tips for heading off your own road rage or avoiding the rage of others:
• Don’t turn that ignition. If you are feeling stressed and anxious before you even start your trip, then the time to calm down is now, not after you are on the highway. Get a grip before you start the car, Morofsky says. Take that deep breath you always heard would work. You might even try counting from one to 10, inhaling on one, exhaling on two, up to 10 and back to one again. “You want to be relaxed before you head out,” he says.
• Stop right there. If you are already driving, and you feel your anger is starting to impact your judgment, pull over for a few moments. “Breathe and ask yourself, is my problem important enough to risk lives?” he says. “Taking a few conscious breaths could prevent a catastrophe.”
• Don’t react or retaliate. You can’t control those other drivers, but you can control how you react to them. If someone is tailgating you, flipped you off or is just infuriating you with bad driving habits, ignore them, Morofsky says. Engaging in some sort of road-rage argument will just further raise your blood pressure, and could prove dangerous in some circumstances. This is just one more opportunity to take that deep breath, he says.