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How to Control Road Rage

Learn how to control road rage from anger management expert Dr. J. Ryan Fuller in this Howcast video.


I'm Dr. Ryan Fuller, and I'm going to talk to you a little bit about how to control road rage. So road rage is a very serious issue in America and other countries as well. It's responsible for all kinds of property damage in terms of auto accidents but also even homicides. So people do get seriously injured and even killed as a function of road rage.

In a way, someone with high anger, who's put in a very heavily trafficked area with time constraints, is really the perfect recipe for aggressive behavior. And so if we look at some of the potential triggers for someone who has anger management issue, putting them in a vehicle that's already dangerous, which means if something goes wrong, there might be property damage to their vehicle or someone else's, creates an experience of anxiety and fear, because there's a threat to loss of property. So it makes anger very likely.

The second component is oftentimes people struggling with anger or illness have very strong demands about how other people are meant to behave and follow the rules in a high sense of a need for control. So again, a heavy commute with a lot of other people on the road makes this a very difficult situation for someone with high anger to manage and navigate.

So I recommend a few things. One, it's a very simple technique called "The Three P's", which is predict, plan, and prepare. When I shared this with one of my clients some years ago, she shared with me, it was the first time I've heard it, that failing to plan is like planning to fail. And the one thing is that most of us have a fairly regular commute pattern. In which case, we have a pretty good idea that traffic might, in fact, exist in that particular time, in that particular path. What we want to do is be realistic about that and make sure that we at least take the urgency and the time constraint out of the equation. And that means leaving plenty of time so that there's a cushion in case there is traffic.

So the first step is try to change what you can by predicting ahead of time, making an appropriate plan to leave early, and maybe even preparing for a potential traffic jam by bringing audio book along or something like that. We certainly don't want you to be engaged in, you know, particular behaviors that might distract you from driving. At the same time, we need you to make sure that you are realistic that you might be stuck in traffic. And while you're there, we want to make sure that you're not ruminating and resenting the person next you and the fact that you're going to be late.

The second is we want you to prepare ahead of time some sort of realistic, coping statements so that if someone does in fact cut you off, they're slowing down, or someone's tailgating you, that you in fact practice rehearsing rational coping beliefs about that situation instead of something irrational that going to simply exacerbate the problem and make you angrier and possibly aggressive.

So some good things to keep in mind is one, usually, another person on the road is not really out to get you. In fact, they're thinking very little about you. What they're really thinking about most of the time is where they need to go and what they need to do. Now that can be upsetting, but it's critical. If someone is at risk for road rage, they don't personalize the issue by assuming hostile intent on the other person's part. Instead, try to cope by thinking something like, "Well this is unfortunate they are acting this way, but it doesn't have much to do with me. It probably says more about his or her behavior. What I need to do is take a deep breath, calm myself down, and focus on my goals, which is getting safely to the next destination."

So two main things I recommend for people with road rages: First - predict, plan, and prepare, especially if it's a commute you know well. And that might mean bringing something else along like an audio book to calm yourself down. Second - to prepare the kinds of coping statements that might help you realistically cope with the situation as opposed to personalizing it and making it worse than it is.

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