ShopSmart, one of my all-time favorite resources, recently printed an article about road rage. Perhaps because I read the piece immediately following an occurrence where someone passed me driving like a demon on a 15 mph street or because I worry so about my husband who has the patience of a wild animal behind the wheel, the article really struck a nerve. Since our lives are so fast-paced these days with not enough hours in the day to accomplish all that's necessary, too many of us take an "I'm-more-important-get-outa-my-way-or-I'll-run-you-down" attitude. So what can we do to avoid road rage ourselves and, perhaps more importantly, how to prevent it in others?
• Don't be the problem yourself. It's a must to avoid behaviors that can and do provoke other drivers. Whether you stick up that middle finger, scream obscenities, tailgate, or just honk the horn, you may find yourself on the other end of a loaded weapon with someone who won't hesitate to use it.
The papers and television are full of horrific and terrifying altercations that led to deadly situations, and we need to avoid these at all costs. Following too closely, cutting off and in, driving slowly in the left lane, and so forth, in addition to just lacking simple courtesy are all reasons that anger other drivers and "drive" them into road rages.
• Get out of the way. Don't escalate conditions or further anger an already ticked-off driver. Never speed up when passed or fight for lane position; confrontation (in his or her eyes) only makes matters worse. And speaking of confrontation, about 15 years ago, a big guy in a big truck decided to "play" by seeing just how slowly he could drive and still force my little car to stay behind him. When I finally got the chance to pass him, I rolled down my window and yelled out a word my mama did NOT raise me to utter. Pressing pedal to the metal, Big Man caught up to me, stopped the truck, jumped out, and started towards my car. Since it immediately became evident he wasn't striding over to start a flirtatious conversation, I gunned my motor and, thank heavens, lost him by taking some little-known side streets. While I'm ashamed and sorry to admit I didn't learn an entire lesson that day, at least I haven't used that particular term since! (I don't mean to make a funny out of a potentially threatening situation but, rather, to emphasize that anything, even just making eye contact, can set off some people and, subsequently, we could find ourselves in a life-or-death scenario.)
• Call for help. The emergency phone line of 911 is your best defense in circumstances like this. (Don't forget there are folks out there with true mental issues, as well as those who are really "crazy" behind-the-wheelers.) Even better, if you're close enough to a safe location, such as a police station, gas station, mall - any area with lights and people - park there, go inside, and wait for law enforcement to arrive. Under no circumstances should you drive to your home; after all, you do not want this person to know where you live.
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Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer books. Email her at email@example.com