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Categories > Mental and Emotional Health > Anger management

Putting the brakes on road rage

The last time somebody cut you off, did you get even by tailgating him or her? Do you spend your mornings stuck on congested highways, swearing at sluggish drivers and blocking others who try to pass? When you’re tailgated yourself, do you slow down in retaliation?

At its worst, aggressive driving can lead to serious injury. But even if you manage to avoid an accident, making a habit of hostile driving can still hurt. How? Every time you lose your cool, the body responds by releasing a surge of stress hormones that quicken your heart rate and pump up your blood pressure. Overreact on a daily basis, and eventually the adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol coursing through your body can do a number on your cardiovascular system, weakening arteries and encouraging plaque buildup.

Tips to tame the driving beast

  • The first step in taming your driving beast is to avoid antagonizing situations in the first place. If possible, travel during off-peak hours. If you must drive during rush hour, allow yourself 10 minutes’ extra time, and don’t take the wheel if you’re angry, upset or overtired.
  • When you spot reckless and/or inconsiderate motorists—those who tailgate, cut people off, travel slowly in the left lane or change lanes without signaling—steer clear. And avoid infuriating or endangering other motorists by practicing safe and courteous driving habits yourself.
  • Take a deep breath before letting a reckless driver get on your bad side. Give your road compadres the benefit of the doubt—maybe their turn signal is busted or they’re not feeling well.
  • Distract yourself from your anger: Make a silly animal sound, count or sing to yourself. Remind yourself that getting even won’t get you to your destination any quicker.
  • Avoid eye contact or obscene gestures with an offending driver and use your horn sparingly. If you’re the one at fault, admit it. A driver is less likely to retaliate if he or she sees that you accept responsibility for your actions.

It takes two to make a road-rage accident. So do your fellow travelers and yourself (heart included) a favor by chilling out, slowing down and not launching a personal crackdown against aggressive drivers. And if you tend to react with hostility even when you’re not on the road, try extending your calm, new attitude to other areas of your life.