It's important not to lose your temper when you're behind the wheel.

How to avoid road rage


Professional drivers don't just know how to drive a car well, they also know how to control their emotions when they’re behind the wheel.

That’s why, when another motorist does something incompetent, forcing a professional driver to swerve or brake to avoid them, the professional doesn't get angry, blasting the horn or winding down the window to yell at the offender. They just raise their eyebrows and continue driving. By remaining calm in annoying traffic situations, you stop emotions from affecting your driving. When you drive angry, your driving becomes more aggressive, and you can make rash decisions. And that's dangerous.

Road rage woman INP

Keep your cool on the road.

There are four ways that emotions affect you when you are driving:

  • You can have tunnel vision and be less likely to notice things happening around your car.
  • Your observation and reaction times are slower, affecting your precision and skills that need fast timing.
  • Strong emotions can reduce your ability to accurately predict risky situations, as you feel detached from your surroundings. This can cause you to act aggressively and make dangerous decisions.
  • You are more likely to experience road rage, which can lead to accumulating negative events.

The secret to remaining calm when others around you are driving like idiots is to remember that you are sharing the road with a cross-section of society – the elderly, young, businesspeople, sick people, people who are hard of hearing, mentally unwell people, criminals and police officers ­– sometimes in unmarked cars.

It pays to remember that people can simply make mistakes.

If you understand that people are fallible, you can keep those dangerous emotions in check. That’s important, as strong emotions ­– from happiness to sadness to anger – can impair a driver's decision-making skills and cognition. 

But emotional control is a difficult skill to learn.

Road rage INP

Emotional control when driving can be a difficult skill to learn.

The key is to get into professional driving mode as soon as you get in the car. Settle into the seat and take four deep breaths to ground yourself in the driving task. Wait to allow the engine to warm up or, if you are driving an EV, check the instruments and the cleanliness of windows. If you like to listen to music while driving, sort that out before you drive off.

Once you’re underway, don't expect politeness from other drivers. People can become quite isolated in a car and, with it, inconsiderate. Psychologists say that drivers can develop a sense of anonymity and detachment in the confines of their vehicles. In traffic conflict situations, keep in mind that one of the following most likely applies: The other driver is incompetent and there is little you can do to fix that. The other driver has simply made a mistake and we all make mistakes. Or the other driver is a bad, aggressive driver.  If it’s the case that the other driver is simply bad, chances are they'll do the same to others and, sooner than later, they’ll be spotted by a police officer in an unmarked car.

Just remember, staying calm while driving helps keep you safe. That’s what counts. 


Story by Alan Kirk for the Autumn 2024 issue of AA Directions Magazine. Alan Kirk is a freelance writer who contributes to AA Directions Magazine.

What do you think? Have you experienced road rage? Do you have any tips for keeping your cool? Share your thoughts in a letter to the editor.

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