How to prevent road rage on your commute to work

by Petrol Mum

In a recent survey of 1,000 Australian drivers, more than 70% said they had been a victim of road rage. But what’s the most common angry behaviour, what causes it, and how can we beat it?

Dr. Amanda Stephens, a research fellow from Monash University’s Accident Research Centre, assisted with a national survey that revealed that the most common aggressive behaviour behind the wheel is verbal, and followed closely by using the vehicle itself to express anger (ehem… tailgaters). Some angry drivers even get personal – trying to scare the other driver or getting out of the car entirely.

Men are more likely than women to be the victim of road rage, but focusing on the women surveyed, 61% said they had been a victim of shouting, cursing or making rude gestures at them or others with them. Scarily though, 18% said a road rager intentionally hurt or threatened to hurt them and 17% responded that the aggressor intentionally damaged or attempted to damage the vehicle they were in.

As well as having been on the receiving end more often, male drivers are more likely than female drivers to have been aggressive towards another road user. Shouting, cursing or making rude gestures towards is the most common form of rage with 51% of men compared to 39% of women admitting to doing this. Nine percent of women admitted to intentionally hurting or threatening to hurt another driver and it was the same figure for women who admitted to intentionally damaging or attempting to damage another vehicle. 

Female drivers are more likely than male drivers to mutter under their breath (53% compared to 46%) and make/pull a face (19% compared to 14%), while men are more likely than women to make rude or threatening gestures (11% compared to 6%) and drive aggressively (6% compared to 2%).

The events of the past year have done anything but help calm us down, with Aussie drivers copping abuse at an alarming rate. However, for those finding it hard to stay calm in irritating situations on the road, there are a few proven tactics that can help.

We spoke to Mike Rosenbaum CEO of Parkhound (pictured left, photograph supplied), Australia’s #1 marketplace for long term parking solutions for local communities. It has over 50,000 parking spaces from a variety of peer-to-peer spaces and car park operators and it is trusted by over 200,000 Aussies. Since 2015, members have earned over $30million dollars thanks to the platform. Here are Mark’s tactics for beating road rage.

Check in with yourself before taking to the wheel

 Although pretty straightforward, the impact that this can have on your overall commute can be immeasurable. The desire to lash out or confront someone about their driving is often caused by frustration stemmed from other, personal situations. Dr Stephens noted that “when we get in the car, our stresses and annoyances accompany us – if we are fighting with a loved one, or stressed about a work situation these can influence how we react to other drivers.” 

 We can also easily misconstrue other drivers’ behaviours as more hostile or deliberate, again causing us to react more aggressively. Of course, once we get out of the car, these angry drives can impact the rest of our day, Dr Stephens also noted that “annoyances from driving can influence how you interact with co-workers and make you more aggressive; or influence interactions with family.” Recognising this cycle is an important step in improving our driving experience. 

Control what you can

 Along with personal situations, there are many contributing factors that can cause our blood to boil on the road. Most we can’t control – like driver discourtesy, traffic obstructions and slow drivers – but some we can – like parking. In fact, a recent survey conducted by parking marketplace, Parkhound, found that parking is a particularly anger-inducing part of Australians’ commutes. Irritations like people who steal spots that are rightfully ours, large cars trying to park in small spaces, and people taking too long to park in an easy spot can send us into a spiral. Tack this on to an already frustrating commute, and it’s hard for anyone to control their temper. 

To avoid this situation altogether it’s smart to plan your parking ahead of time. There are platforms, like Parkhound, that allow you to easily rent a long-term spot near your home or work, instantly taking the anxiety of finding parking off your list of commuting worries.

 Switch up your routes

Many may think that accidents occur more often when driving in a new location, however the truth is quite the opposite. Driving the same route time and time again makes us complacent – leading to more thoughtless mistakes and accidents. In fact, statistics show that even with less traffic on the road during COVID, Australians were making more dangerous decisions that usual, often in their own local areas. As soon as we get more comfortable, it’s human nature to become easily distracted, become less patient with other drivers, and make errors that can cause an accident. To avoid this, it’s beneficial to change up the route you take to work or to your local shops, encouraging you to focus more closely on the road and the drive itself.

 Attend a defensive driver course

 Finally, while there are a lot of changes we can make on our own to create a more peaceful drive, there are defensive driver courses available for those that find it difficult to find their zen on the road. These courses equip drivers with the skills and knowledge needed to safely take on different driving conditions and environments. They can prove beneficial particularly for those looking to shake off bad driving habits picked up a long time ago. The courses typically run through managing hazardous conditions, safe driving techniques and up to date knowledge of road laws, and the main goal is to keep drivers safe on the roads.  

 Even on a good day, keeping your cool during a stressful commute is no easy feat. There are countless factors that can crop up during our drive and easily cause us to see red. However, preparing the things you can control ahead of time, plus being mindful of what specifically is causing your negative reactions, can make a world of difference.

Dr Stephens was recently part of a campaign called “Travel time, it’s your time.” developed as a collaboration between Monash University Accident Research Centre, the National Road Safety Partnership Program and Budget Direct which provided tools for drivers to rethink anger and aggression. She shared two of her favourite points from the campaign with Mike “the majority of drivers drive up to 25,000km per year: will you spend that time in anger?” and “in every other car is another person; think before you rage” These are great points for everyone to keep in mind before getting behind the wheel.

Photographs from Unsplash.

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