Between traffic jams, construction hassles and aggressive drivers, it can be easy to get stressed on the road. If you feel your blood pressure rising along with your speed, use these tips to keep calm, collected and safe behind the wheel.
Setting a safe pace and space
The first step to a more tranquil drive takes place before you leave home. Check traffic reports online or use an app like Waze or Google Maps so you can be realistic about how long it will take to reach your destination.1 Anxiety over running late can lead to speeding, which can lead to a ticket or put your safety at risk. Speed-related accidents accounted for 27 percent of all traffic fatalities in 2016.2
How you feel before you start driving may influence how you will handle stress on the road.3 Before entering traffic, take time to clean up and organize your car’s interior, then proceed to make your car as comfortable as possible. Turn on “easy listening” music. Adjust your seat and mirror. Set the air conditioner or heat to just the right temperature. A relaxing atmosphere inside your vehicle can help you stay calm if you encounter frustrations along your route.
Controlling your reaction
Unfortunately, you can’t choose who will be on the road with you, which means it’s possible you’ll cross paths at some point with an aggressive driver who may tailgate, speed, cross lanes recklessly and honk repeatedly.
While you can’t control other drivers’ behavior, you can control your reaction. It’s recommended to never engage or challenge an aggressive driver. Don’t make gestures that might escalate the risky behavior, and give the driver plenty of space. If you’re in the passing lane, safely switch into another lane to allow the impatient driver to pass.4
Benefit of the doubt
Not all driving errors are intentional. If a driver suddenly stops or changes direction, they could just be lost, so give other drivers the benefit of the doubt.4 If you feel yourself getting frustrated, create a mental distraction: Change your music selection or talk yourself through the situation to calm down. Breathe deeply and use your horn sparingly.5
As long as you follow the rules of the road and stay even-keeled, you’ll be less likely to spark a negative reaction from drivers around you and more likely to reach your destination safely.