The Best Way to Handle a Dangerous Driver
To keep yourself safe, there's just one thing you need to know.
Posted Apr 02, 2018
The other day I spotted a dangerous driver. I barely had a chance to glance at him as he sped past me in the left lane on a four-lane road where the speed limit was only 30. I slowed down in the right lane, swerving reflexively to my right to make sure he wouldn’t sideswipe me as he passed. Then I noticed him up ahead, weaving back and forth from lane to lane, still traveling at breakneck speed. I continued to track him as he disappeared in front of a truck and then reappeared at a light.
My first thoughts were: “Is he drunk?” “How could anyone drive like that?” “Jerk.” Then another part of my brain answered: “Oh, don’t be so judgmental. You don’t know his life.” I craned my neck to see if he had crashed into anyone yet or if, mercifully, a police officer had pulled him over.
Suddenly I realized that I was on a collision course with the car in front of me. I hit the brakes, skidding to a stop just inches from that car. I had been so preoccupied with the dangerous driver that I had ceased to pay attention to my own driving.
It turned out that I was the dangerous driver.
I wasn’t texting or drinking or eating or putting on make-up or doing any of the things that might be considered “distracted driving.” Nonetheless I was not watching the road--I was watching him. As I went back over this incident later, I realized that I had violated what I consider to be the First Rule of Adulthood:
You only have control over yourself. The rest is up to someone else.
When I first focused on the speeding car, my goal was simple self-preservation. No problem there. As the old safety slogan has it: “Watch out for the other guy.” But then I became obsessed with “the other guy”—first blaming him, then trying to be more compassionate, then wishing for his comeuppance again. I was so mindlessly lost in thought that I stopped monitoring my own driving, leading to potentially disastrous results. Luckily, I came to my senses just in time.
I wonder how many accidents and road rage incidents could be avoided if we all just realized that while we can't control the other dangerous drivers, we do have the power to control ourselves. Yes, some accidents are unavoidable. Yes, there are many annoying and unsafe drivers out there. We need to avoid those drivers or report them to people who can help. For our part, we could choose to ignore a rude driver. We could resist taking the actions of other drivers personally. We could refrain from making obscene gestures, shouting, or raising our fist. Instead, we could take a deep breath and even wish the other driver well, as this blog suggests.
It’s difficult to watch people who are careening carelessly down the Highway of Life. I worry that they could hurt themselves or someone else. I wish I could help, and sometimes I do. But mostly, I can only help myself.
That is my interpretation of the popular phrase, “Stay in your own lane.” The Urban Dictionary defines it as “Mind your own business.” In daily life, that could mean refraining from telling other people how they ought to change and concentrating on making changes in yourself. It could mean altering your own behavior to improve your marriage or your work life rather than expecting someone else to change first. It could mean speaking up when someone’s actions hurt you or interfere with your life. It could mean setting a boundary. It could mean deciding how to make your own life better, despite what might be happening around you.
But if you become so obsessed with another person and their actions that you forget to navigate your own life, you could easily become “a dangerous driver.” And the single best way to handle a dangerous driver is to exert control over yourself and your own life. Safe travels!
© Meg Selig, 2018. All rights reserved.
“Stay in your own lane,” Urban Dictionary.
"Dealing With Other People's Road Rage and Letting Go of Anger," by Frank Paino.