Are you bothered by the driver that dangerously cuts you off, slams on their brakes without reason, drives slower or faster than the speed limit, runs the red light or slams on their brakes at the yellow, fails to turn right on red or left when the arrow is lit, does not go when the light turns green, or sways between lanes as they talk or text on their phone? The answer is of course you are. Your feelings of frustration, anger, fear or resentment are understandable. Your feelings are a warning signal that you are facing a difficult or dangerous situation and the facts are you are facing exactly that.
The good news is that you don't have to be discouraged. Bad drivers don't have to ruin your day or keep you off the roads. Instead here are some tips to survive the ordeal:
1. Accept there will always be unsafe, thoughtless, dodgy drivers on the roads. Telling yourself that they should not be allowed to drive is not going to make you feel better. The reality is they shouldn't be on the roads but unfortunately we don't have the power to control their behavior or ban them from the streets. Thinking they shouldn't be out there is only going to escalate your frustration and anger. You can reduce your frustration and anger simply by replacing your should with a non demanding imperative. Tell yourself you wish they weren't on the road but resign yourself to the fact that they are.
2. Understand that they may have just put you in a genuinely dangerous situation but recognize that the danger has past. Continuing to dwell on the injustice or the scare will only serve to prolong your suffering. Acknowledge that the danger or injustice has passed and instead, turn your focus to something else. Pay attention to the drivers that are driving considerately and well. Remind yourself of the person that actually waved you into the traffic rather than blocking your entry.
3. Be careful not to judge other's behaviors leading you to exaggerate the meaning of situations and make them more personal than they are. Do you assume they did what they did on the road to purposely put you in dangers way or to make you late, nervous, upset, or mad? First, consider the driver is blind to the other drivers on the road and thereby treats any car in its path on equally negative terms. The car bully is going to bully everyone not just you. Second, maybe there is an explanation to their erratic driving that makes their problematic behavior understandable but by no means excusable. Consider the possibility that they have just heard that a loved one was rushed to the hospital, they just lost their job, their bowels need a bathroom, or day care is closing. There are endless explanations that do not reflect on you. Try giving the troubled driver compassion rather than rage and see how that helps you.
4. Accept you have 0% control of others and total control of you. You can maximize your safety and your peace of mind by driving alert, sensibly, and carefully. The more things you do to minimize the impact of the other drivers on you, the safer you are. You may want to try to keep your driving distance further away from other cars, regularly check your mirrors and always try to be aware of what it going on around you, drive the speed limit, use your turn signals, and follow the rules. Other strategies you may want to consider is to never text, use a hand held phone or fiddle with your ipod while driving. Knowing you are doing all you can to reduce your risk is reassuring and is actually making you safer.
5. Fight the urge to teach anyone a lesson. You may want to tailgate that car that just cut in front of you, blast your horn, put up your middle finger, not let the car in, or flash your lights. Think it through so you resist temptation. Nothing is to be gained by giving it back. First, the person you are attacking may not even be aware that they did something wrong and now you look like the bad person. Second, retaliating only escalates what is already a bad and dangerous situation, making it even more unsafe. Third, sticking to your own beliefs about driving actually gives you the power and peace of mind. Don't give the hazardous driver any power by letting them elicit negative behavior from you.
Remember, driving is often a necessary challenge but you can keep aggressive drivers from ruining your day. Open your windows, enjoy the breeze, smell the scents of our environment, feel the power of the engine in your hands, notice the scenery, enjoy your favorite tunes, paste a smile on, and go out prepared to not let those difficult drivers mess up your day!