I’m beginning to get a better understanding of road rage.. I will admit that I have been one of those angry people cursing at other cars or saying “come on, move!” and on occasion, honking my horn. I have realized a few things:

  1. They can’t hear you
  2. They can probably see you, and you look ridiculous/annoying
  3. Your ridiculous/annoyingness distracts not only you, but them as well, making it more likely that one of you (or perhaps someone else who is laughing at you waving your arms like a gorilla) will get into an accident
  4. honking your horn does not make people move faster, in fact it usually makes them stop (for spite!)
Road Rage
Image taken from: http://www.toothpastefordinner.com

I have learned a few things over the last 6 months, some of them from a very cute little buddhist monk who makes an awful lot of sense. When you are driving, it’s difficult to remember that you do not own the road. I know, we all like to think that we have the right of way, or that the guy over there just took your spot. But simply put, we all share the road. Following that train of thought, it’s not your lane or your spot either that some other car is squishing into. We all seem to feel entitled to our spaces on the road. This type of thinking is skewed. We need to try and think of it from the other side; in terms of us, not them.

What does that mean? It means that we can greatly benefit from concentrating on our responsibility to drive safely. If someone races into the small spot in front of you, instead of fuming over the fact that he/she has just taken up the safe space you have created between you and the car in front of you, try just making sure that you are doing the right thing, and that once this driver has squeezed in, that you are still driving safely – give them some space so that you remain safe! After all, you are the important one 🙂

Road Rage
Image from: http://www.theage.com.au

Also, if you are screaming at someone in front of you and honking, likely they will simply react defensively: cursing and swearing back at you, regardless of who is right or wrong. The damage at this point is two-fold. Now yours and the other drivers’ concentration has been compromised – raising your likelihood of being in an accident. Not only that but the people around you will likely have decided (in their own minds) whether one or the other of you was in the right – and carry the animosity of your situation with them. This means that not only you and the other driver, but also other people may be in an angry state while driving, all as a result of one person cutting another off, or not letting them into a lane. It creates a domino effect of angriness that spreads – more people swear and honk, more people swerve and cut others off – because if that guy did, I am entitled, too! Right? 😉

You can also look at things from the other perspective when experiencing not-so-great drivers who are compromising your safety. If someone is signaling to get into your lane, make space for them. Sure, you might be angry because they have just shoved you back one car length, and now you’re going to be even later than before (by a whole 2 seconds!)… but on the flip side – they are only one car length ahead of you! So they really didn’t get much further ahead, and you are not really that much further behind…

It’s difficult to think in these terms, because everyone seems to think that they are entitled to their spot, their lane, and to cut other people off – but not the other way around. There is a serious double standard in most drivers’ eyes. If we shift our concentration from making sure we are getting what we are “entitled” to when driving to concentrating on making sure that everything we are doing is safe, I think that not only will there be less accidents, but eventually (in a utopia, I know) people will catch on and be more courteous and forgiving on the road. After all, everyone makes mistakes.

Maybe that guy in the Audi cut you off because his wife is in the passenger seat with a huge bleeding cut on her arm and she needs medical attention. Perhaps the lady in the van didn’t check her blind spot because she is not concentrating on the road because her baby just threw up and is choking in the back seat. Or perhaps the teenagers in the K-car are just driving recklessly and not paying attention. You never really know what’s going on in other cars. Sure – most likely they cut you off because they feel like you (or others around you) are going too slow and that getting one car length ahead will help them go faster. Either way, just let them go and make sure that you are being safe. And do it with a smile on your face!

Karma BuddhaWhy? Because KARMA will repay them. I have personally seen Karma in action while driving. I was in traffic, and a car was coming up fast from behind me, switching lanes erratically, swerving, and squashing himself into tight spots so that he could get ahead of all of us who were patiently driving through traffic. Then, all of a sudden he realized he had to go left, and crossed three lanes of traffic (nearly clipping someone’s car!) so that he could get into the left turning lane. Do you know what happened? This guy ended up hitting the curb in the left hand lane and likely did some real damage to one or both of the rims on that side of his car.  I’m sure that everyone who was patiently driving safely had a big smile on their faces.
I know I did!

So when someone cuts me off, or refuses to let me into their lane, 9 times out of 10 I have learned to just smile or laugh (at them!) and make sure I have left safe space around my car, and that I’m doing what I’m supposed to on the road. I try to only use my horn if I feel like I’m in danger and need to warn another driver to pay attention. I have found that not only does this make my commute happier (because laughing at idiots is WAY more fun than honking and swearing at them), but when I get to my destination, I feel a whole lot more fantastic. I’m far from perfect on the road, but I’m getting there. Not only that, but changing my practice has eliminated a whole lot of stress from my daily life!