Road Rage Rethought


I remember a cartoon ages ago that started out showing  the mild-mannered Goofy getting ready for work in the morning, whistling a happy tune, kissing his wife and kids good-bye and then smiling and jovial, going out to his car to drive to work.

But, as soon as he started the car he instantly became a raving maniac, yelling at everyone else on the road, sure that they were all out to “get” him.  Road Rage at its worst.

Then when Goofy got to work, as he turned off the ignition and got out of his car, he morphed back to the kind, gentle, happy man he had been at home.

It was a funny cartoon, but, like all good humor, based on some truths in human nature.

Are you someone who becomes very frustrated with other drivers?

Hubby does become aggravated with other cars in traffic sometimes and, because I’m a little better at not letting it get to me, we have variations of this conversation occasionally.

Hubby:  “Whyyyy is he in the passing lane, and driving the same speed as the truck next to him!”  And then his most frequent indictment of the offending driver, “He must be on his cell phone.”

Me:  “Well, maybe his wife left him, he just lost his job, and his teenage daughter has told him she’s pregnant and dropping out of school.”    

Now, I admit, both of the offenses that bothered Hubby are annoying to me too.  Why does someone drive in the passing lane in a way that keeps people from using it for … passing?  And, it does seem like, more and more often, if you see a driver doing something stupid, when you get a good look at them they are talking on a cell phone.  But I really do try to look for a reason not to be mad at other drivers.  

Two experiences I had years ago have helped me think that way. 

First, from the viewpoint of the “offended” party:  One time when I was a young mother with hungry, tired small children in the back seat, hurrying to get them home for lunch and a nap, I ended up behind an extremely slow car blocking my way on a narrow but busy road.  In fact, the car was going so slow that I did wonder if it was someone purposely trying to annoy me.  I was sooo frustrated, hoping the person would turn off soon so that I could be on my way with my backseat of unhappy toddlers!  But when the road widened to dual lane and I was able to get around the offending car, it was someone I knew!  It was a sweet older lady from our church — and when she saw me she smiled and waved!  She obviously had no idea that she had been holding up someone behind her.   Boy, I could instantly feel the frustration drain from my body with that one sweet little smile and wave. 

And secondly, from the viewpoint of an “offender”:  One time when my dad was still driving, but no longer drove at night because of his poor vision, my parents left my sister’s home in a city a couple hours away a little later than they had intended, and consequently ended up driving the last miles of their trip home after dark.  As it got dark, they ended up “talking their way home”, and probably driving pretty slowly.  Both intent on the road, both with poor eyesight, they were constantly talking back and forth about road signs and where the next turn was and they had almost made it home.  But then a car came up behind them with its bright lights on, and rather than go around them, for whatever reason, that driver stayed right on their bumper with his bright lights flooding my parent’s car and making it that much harder for them to see.  Finally Daddy and Mama made the final turn down their street and the other car roared off into the night.  But when I talked to Mama the next morning she was still shaken by the experience.  She said they were both nervous wrecks by the time they arrived home, because of not only the fact that they had had to drive after dark, but because of the car that followed them that felt very threatening to them.  I was so angry at that driver for having frightened my parents but, in reality, that may have been a driver just like I described earlier, who had a million things on their mind other than their driving and just saw my parent’s car as another “road block’ in their already frustrating life.

I tell you all this because of a quote I saw in the paper this morning in an article about a totally different subject but the quote, which was not attributed to anyone, reminded me of a possible “cure” for Road Rage.

Never ascribe to malice that which can be explained by incompetence.

Better to think of the other driver as a duffus rather than an enemy!

But, I would add some thoughts from my own experiences: 

~When you become frustrated with another driver in traffic, give them the benefit of the doubt.  Think of bad things that can happen in a life, that might have just happened to them, making it hard for them to concentrate on driving.  And take a minute to count your own blessings that you aren’t in those circumstances.

~Remind yourself that if they are truly “playing with you” and purposely trying to annoy you, it can’t be fun being them!  Feel sorry for them that they have that kind of personality, and don’t “reward” their behavior by letting them see they have irritated you.  And, at the first opportunity, drop back in traffic if you can, so that you don’t have to deal with them any more.

~Picture the person behind the wheel of that slow-moving car that’s in your way as some older person whom you adore .. maybe your own parent. 

~Say a prayer for the person who is driving the car that is “offending” you.  A little harder to stay mad at someone you’re praying for. 

~And finally, when you are frustrated with an older driver in traffic, just remember some day that will be you.  Treat them the way you hope to be treated when you are their age!

9 Responses to Road Rage Rethought

  1. Linda says:

    Great post, Sandy.

  2. Sam says:

    What a great post, Sandy. It’s funny — I talked about my own struggle with it in church just last Sunday. Thanks!

  3. Sandra says:

    Sam — It ‘s certainly a common problem with which I think many people struggle.

  4. SD says:

    Awesome lesson and reminder…
    Thanks for sharing!
    Happy Valentine’s Day!

  5. Beth says:

    These are great, practical, doable tips, Sandra. Thank you!

  6. Sandra says:

    SD — Thank you. Happy Valentine’s Day to you too!

    Beth — I’m glad if the ideas are helpful. We can all do with less stress in our lives.

  7. Hilary says:

    Leave it to you to always see the bright or more caring side of a situation. You could probably diffuse road rage single-handedly.

  8. Sandra says:

    Hilary — I don’t know about that! But, I like it that you think I MIGHT be able to do it. 🙂

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