Coping During Driving
by Lucie Brossard, Program Manager
If you are looking to increase your faith in humanity, on the highways and byways is hardly the place to do it. Some people do things behind the wheel of a car they would not dare do in person. For example, have you ever had someone rush right up behind you in the grocery line and breathe down your neck until you move along your way? Has someone ever screamed expletives at you for sauntering down the sidewalk while walking your dog? Has anyone once side-swiped you at the bookstore while you were browsing for that specific title? Such displays of behavior in the face-to-face realm are less common, whereas aggression on the road is an everyday hassle. I am sure most drivers are perfectly nice and respectable in other contexts, but behind the shield of their vehicle, the worst comes out.
To start, if you find anxiety while driving has disrupted your daily routines or contributed to other long-term health conditions, please speak with your physician or a therapist. For those of us with milder upset over road rage in all its manifestations, this article will provide some concrete things people can do to take matters into their own hands and improve the quality of their time in the driver’s seat.
Before we can talk about coping, safety on the road needs to be established. How will coping tools help if we are joining in on the hazardous antics by hurling through space without any presence of mind? I am not here to provide coping tools we can superimpose on outlandish driving practices, but first and foremost to slow us down so we can regain some self-possession while maneuvering that hunk of metal.
RESPECT TIME: Leave 5-10 minutes early anytime you are venturing out in your vehicle. This may mean you have to get out of bed 5-10 minutes earlier for your morning commute. If you need to gas up on the way to your destination, leave an extra 15 minutes or better yet, gas up the day before.
SLOW DOWN: Go the speed limit. With no traffic tickets, your bank account will thank you and you could save a life, including your own. Notice those speed limit signs and follow them.
RESPECT OTHERS: Shift into a “put others first” mindset. Look for opportunities to cut others a break on the road. Try to be kind to someone else at least 3 times during every trip, more times if you are taking a road trip. Ignore people who are less kind, not giving them the power to ruin your traveling.
TAKE IT EASY: When on the highway, stay in the right lane unless you are passing. This will be a breeze if you are following the speed limit because few others adhere to it and they will all be passing you.
GIVE SPACE: Allow several car lengths between you and the person in front of you. Think of this as allowing others ample room and protecting yourself from sudden changes in the traffic flow. Another gift to yourself and others.
FOCUS ON YOURSELF: As much as you might like to, you cannot control or impact others on the road. Stay oriented to yourself and your own frame of mind and how you are doing. As an experiment, you could rate your mood on a scale of 1-10 before and after the trip. See how you did and if your mood significantly tanked, ask yourself why. What could you have done differently to keep your mood more balanced? What tripped you up and how will you do better next time?
Did you notice I did not recommend visualizing angels, or deep breathing, or using affirmations to cope? Of course, if these things help you, use them. But if you are hurling down the road at 80 miles per hour, these band-aids may not provide much solace. In the end, looking at how we are behaving while out navigating traffic by making slight changes to our routines and habits may just be the best way to impact our thoughts and feelings about “people who drive like maniacs”.