Do You Road Rage? Why We Do, and What We Can Do About It

Living in a city like Los Angeles requires a commute on some form of Freeway (too many to list), a journey through bumper to bumper surface streets, and possibly a walk. All of this is cemented between our daily stressors of work and family.

It’s often common for us to leave home upset around time management issues, conflicts with loved ones, or the dread of going to a place of employment. How can this not affect us? Most of us are also aware that there is an unofficial “Rules of the Road” handbook that establishes polite behavior, which is not followed by many. The perfect storm of impolite driving (unsafe, or self-righteous), and an average person’s bad day can lead to escalations that are unsafe for all parties. Most of us would call this sudden explosion of anger, Road Rage.

While the actions of others remain out of our control, we can be more mindful of our own state as we enter our cars. When a person makes a physical check of possible obstructions prior to pulling out of a space, they are hyper aware. Their eyes search all mirrors for people, dogs, and other cars as if life depended on it, and in many ways this is true. We can also look inward, within ourselves. Creating an awareness of how you are feeling prior to starting the ignition, can be helpful in creating awareness of where you are at.

Road Rage is related to the tipping point of our agitation. What is your frustration tolerance at that particular time, on that particular day? Some people appear to always be at a high frustration level, but for others, irritation can sneak up more slowly. What are the daily obstacles we still have in front of us? Maybe there is a specific meeting, appointment, or a time we have to pick up our kids. It could be the time of day we depart such as rush hour, or a work related task that still lingers on our mind. Are we late? There is an infinite amount of possible stressors, and personal drama or what we might call personal crisis situations (hey it seems like a crisis to us!), but when paired with inconsiderate drivers things can explode.

If we were to rank our personal wellbeing on a scale of 1-10, with one being Buddha, and 10 being Hulk, most likely we all live in a 3 most of the time. It’s once we cross 5 or 6, that we want to become more mindful of Road Rage triggers, and our own body awareness. This is the time we can course correct, prior to further and potentially more dangerous escalation.

Every person has a different anger response. If we begin to track our outbursts, we become more aware of the patterns in our triggers. This is where we can consciously begin to change patterns and replace or alter behaviors. Tracking body symptoms prior to outburst (twitching eye, flushed face, rapid breathing, warm forehead, watery eyes, itchy shoulders or neck, clenching, etc..), can be helpful in establishing patterns, but we need to work on better planning to implement prior to these escalations.

Listening to the radio, taking deep and purposeful breaths, or talking to a good friend or family member can be helpful. Avoiding conflicts while driving is a good rule of thumb as well. When a person is riding at an 8 or 9, it does not take much to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. As our mindfulness and self-awareness increase, it’s easier to make better choices, and do the things we need to do to be safe.