Anger and aggression have no place behind the wheel of a vehicle. Each year, thousands of motorists are injured or killed due to road rage. Take a few moments to read this. It could save your life.

Several years ago, a woman was driving through a parking lot when a male driver cut her off. The woman became irate and approached the other driver, throwing soda at him. He exited his vehicle and an altercation ensued. Shortly thereafter, the man suffered a heart attack and died. He left behind a grieving family; she faced criminal charges, fines, and a lifetime of remorse and guilt.

An insignificant incident turned fatal because both parties did not understand how to conduct themselves in a manner that would ensure a safe outcome. One bad choice can have devastating consequences for everyone. Too often, we react to a situation rather than contemplating the most intelligent way to handle it. 

One of the most critical mistakes people make is to take personal offense to an incident. “How dare she do this to me!” But her poor judgment or bad behavior is not about you. All drivers make mistakes. Don’t blow things out of proportion. Give others permission to be human. Most of what angers us is relatively insignificant anyway. A simple shift in perception (our thoughts about the incident or driver) will change how we feel. “Thank God I was paying attention and avoided an accident.” Rather than feeling indignant and wanting revenge, we experience feelings of gratitude that nothing serious happened. Never engage with irate drivers. You know nothing about them or what they are capable of.

Also be especially mindful not to allow ego to eclipse intellect. When one feels disrespected, it is easy to become defensive and seek to teach the other a lesson. However, that is not your responsibility. Your primary task is to keep yourself safe at all times and to ensure the safety of those around you as well. Drive to Stay Alive is a simple mantra reminding us to do so. If our focus (thought) is on safety, we will make choices to keep ourselves free from harm. Do not concern yourself with what others think of you or what they’ve gotten away with. Such concerns have no relevant value.

Remember, thoughts generate feelings and people act out what they feel. Judging the other driver as an idiot will generate anger and arrogance. We run a serious risk of acting out our anger and exacerbating the situation. Consequences follow all choices and can prove deadly, as was the case with the aforementioned woman. Conversely, we can view the other party as a decent person having a temporary lapse of good judgment, which will generate feelings of understanding instead. Consideration enables us to be more forgiving, thus prompting a dramatically safer outcome. Both parties leave unscathed and intact – able to avert potential tragedy while resuming their intended journeys toward a more worthwhile destination.

Never miss a headline!

Sign up to have The Jefferson Chronicle emails/breaking alerts and Print Edition sent free to your inbox. Subscribe >>