We’ve all been there – traffic jams, inconsiderate drivers, bad weather and potholes – dealing with poor road conditions and heavy traffic can quickly make you feel stressed.
Knowing how to handle these situations is important to managing your stress levels and helps ensure you arrive safely at your destination. Getting emotionally worked up rarely leaves us feeling any better – it just passes on the frustration to another driver and spreads the road rage.
Instead, consider having a game plan before you even get into your car, and know what you have to do to help avoid frustration once you’re in the thick of things.
According to Derek Kirby, Training Director at Driving Skills for Life (DSFL) South Africa, the majority of Nigerian drivers have been on the receiving end of some form of road rage in the past. He points out that even drivers who consider themselves to be very calm admit to showing signs of road rage on occasion.
DSFL is a driving skills programme for newly-licensed drivers, as well as a means of improving the defensive driving ability of experienced drivers. It is funded by the not-for-profit Ford Motor Company Fund as an effective method of improving driving skills globally and so contributing to road safety. The program focuses on defensive driving techniques that include dealing with – and avoiding – road rage.
Before You Drive
- Allow Time for Delays
This may seem like a no-brainer, but failing to give yourself a bit of breathing room when travelling to work or social engagements can create unnecessary stress, so allow time for unexpected delays. Make a habit of listening to traffic reports in order to avoid congested areas. If you do get stuck in traffic, however, the best advice is to relax and turn up the music. Getting worked up won’t get you to your destination faster – and may even result in an accident. If you’ve allowed some time for a delay it will significantly reduce your traffic-jam stress.
- Get some rest
Driving while tired can be stressful and dangerous. Getting a good night’s sleep before hitting the road is a good step towards staying calm and in charge on the road. It’s just as important to rest regularly along the way of your trip. Certain Ford vehicles have alert systems that will keep track of your driving behaviour and alert you to take a rest if they sense you are starting to drift from side to side – a potential sign of driver fatigue.
- Sound mind, sound ride
Your car should always remind you why it’s awesome to drive. The right playlist or the right radio station can help fend off stress and frustration in a traffic jam. At a reasonable volume, this can help make the drive more pleasant and help you stay calm.
As you’re driving:
- Drive smoothly
If burning fuel (and your money) is stressing you out as you sit idle in traffic, remember that smooth driving can help decrease fuel consumption. There’s no reason to rush five metres forward only to stop again. Accelerating and braking smoothly in stop-start traffic helps make your tank go farther.
“When approaching a red light or a slow-down in traffic use your vehicle’s momentum and built up energy by taking your foot off the accelerator pedal early. Try and roll with stop-start traffic as smoothly as possible. Also try to change lanes early when approaching obstacles or turn-offs and always use your indicators. This will make you a smoother driver and help you avoid a number of situations that can result in road rage. It may also save you money on fuel in the long run,” says Derek.
- Give yourself some space
Tailgating (when you leave almost no space between your car and the car in front of you) is dangerous for everyone involved and a recipe for potential collisions – keep a safe distance between your vehicle and the one ahead. A safe distance is a minimum of three seconds and in bad weather or road conditions five to six seconds. Radar-based cruise control systems can prove handy in helping you maintain a set following distance. Some systems, such as Ford’s Adaptive Cruise Control, come with a Forward Collision Alert technology that can alert you when it detects a high risk of collision with the vehicle in front.
And if you do find yourself being tailgated, you might want to find a safe space to pull over and let the other driver pass. Bad drivers are not worth your precious energy!
- Drive and Let Drive
Decide to be safe. Don’t hoot or stare, or use rude hand gestures, no matter how tempting it is. Rather take a few deep breaths and focus on your own driving. Though you can’t control traffic or other drivers, you can control your own behaviour. Getting into a conflict is ultimately self-defeating, as it will not get you out of the traffic faster.