Serenity now! How not to lose your cool on the road

So the guy in front of you just cut you off. No turn signal, no friendly hand gesture, no acknowledgment whatsoever. What-do-you-do?

Do you put on some classical music, give him a courtesy honk and remain calm, cool and collected? Or do you flash your high beams, lay into the horn, tailgate him, cut him off, and/or recite a symphony of verbal abuses?

If the latter seems more appropriate, then you may have a classic case of road rage and yes, it can be managed.

Why bother, you ask? Why not teach the other guy how to drive? Fair enough. You may not be the one to blame for what just happened, but you will undoubtedly be blamed for the aggressive and violent actions taken as a result.

So what is this crazy thing called road rage?

Essentially, road rage is a heightened emotion leading to aggressive behaviour on the road. The example above is of a provoked incident, where the driver feels the need to retaliate. But there are also unprovoked situations in which the driver has a distorted vision of reality.

Pedestrians seem to be crossing too slowly; taxis are always in the way; cyclists are reckless; traffic lights are out to get you; the driver in front of you is your enemy; the one beside you is a maniac.

So why do you suddenly turn into a Mr. Hyde-type creature as soon as you enter your vehicle? Perhaps you haven't had enough sleep. Or maybe you haven't allocated enough time to get to where you're going. Some drivers vent all their frustrations on those around them. Others treat their vehicle like a castle, defending their territory at all costs.

Of course, there's also traffic congestion, bad weather and noise levels. All of which are causes of higher stress, which can lead to more aggressive driving.

Fighting your own road rage (not literally please)

Drivers can cope with their own road rage by taking an honest look at their driving behaviour and attempting to reduce their stress level behind the wheel. You can help to do this by:

Getting your Zs. We all know how cranky we get without enough sleep, so getting at least eight hours of sleep will make a world of difference.

Planning ahead. Extra time means calmer driving.

Loosening up. If you notice yourself clenching the steering wheel, try loosening your grip and you'll find that you can control the car just as well. Relaxing music also helps.

Being Zen. Giving in to anger is probably not the best course of action. Just think, "is it worth endangering my life and that of my passengers?" Try laughing it off.

A good defence... dealing with aggressive drivers

If you're not the one with road rage and you happen to be on the road with an aggressive driver, here are few tips to keep you out of harm's way.

* Be a cautious and courteous driver.
* Avoid situations that may provoke other motorists, such as tailgating.
* Don't make inappropriate hand or facial gestures and use your horn sparingly.
* And it's always a good idea to put as much distance between you and the aggressive driver as possible.

We're all bound to lose our cool at some point or another, the important thing to remember is that road rage - and more specifically road violence - can land you in some serious trouble (accidents, injuries, police, etc.). Take the road rage test at roadragers.com and find out what kind of driver you are and let's all make an effort to make the roads a little safer.

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