With road traffic on the increase, road works seemingly constantly in progress, and the fast pace of life generally, staying stress free while driving is becoming more and more important day-by-day.
Road rage and on-road conflicts are an increasing occurrence, even to the extent of being featured in a recent episode of Peter Kay's Car Share, so road safety and breakdown organisation GEM Motoring Assist is encouraging drivers to avoid getting involved in conflicts on journeys.
Although the Car Share episode treats the incident with a large element of comedy, even to the extent of bringing up the number of downloaded incidents to social media, GEM road safety officer Neil Worth brings a large dose of realism to the problem.
"Some drivers believe it’s acceptable to behave on the road in a way they would never dream of behaving in other areas of their lives. This is most likely because being in the car has the effect of dehumanising a situation of conflict.
"We tend to ignore the risk of possible consequences, either to ourselves or to other road users, so we allow our frustration and anger to be directed at those who get in our way or whose driving actions displease us."
This is why GEM has produced its 'Courtesy on the Road' leaflet which offers up some advice on how to keep your cool when all around others are losing theirs in an attempt to "hopefully reduce the risk for a driver of being the target of someone else’s aggression".
- Keep calm and show restraint. Understand that you can encounter frustration and conflict on every journey that you make, however long or short. Be aware that others are in the same position as you, so make a personal pledge to be patient.
- Avoid using your horn or making gestures in anger, however provoked or stressed you are. Others' actions will, in all likelihood, not be deliberate.
- If something does happen, step away from it in your mind. Avoid the temptation to compete and resist the desire to 'get even'. It is human nature to be 'disappointed' (to say the least) with the driving of others, and if their standards fall below what you can expect, resist the opportunity to educate them or rebuke them. In other words, don't wind your window down and give them a piece of your mind; and don't make gestures from the safety of your car through the windows and windscreen.
- Don’t push into traffic queues. If you wait and clearly signal, someone will come along who will let you in. Because, as you know yourself, it is very irritating when someone forces their way in front of you.
- If you can, let someone into the queue who is signalling to be let in. And don't get irate if they don't signal their gratitude.
- But on the other hand, make sure that you say thank you and sorry when required. It's common courtesy, and just because you are in a car doesn't mean that you can't encourage co-operation on the road. If you make a mistake or perhaps cut things a bit fine, a gesture of apology avoids confrontation and helps defuse anger. And a courteous wave, or signal of acknowledgement can reduce stress in other drivers too!
- If trouble looks like it is going to happen, then move away if you are able to. If you feel seriously threatened by another driver, then ensure your car doors locked and drive (at legal speed) to the nearest police station or busy area such as a petrol station forecourts before using your mobile phone to alert the police. Pressing the horn repeatedly or continuously is likely to deter a potential attacker.
Neil Worth concludes: "It’s all about showing consideration, patience and tolerance. We all make mistakes from time to time. [But] remember also that some drivers will be out there looking for argument and conflict. They may take pleasure as a situation escalates – but no one has control over how it will finish, and that’s what makes any involvement potentially so dangerous."