If tailgating, hand gestures or using profanity describes your driving behaviour, you may have a full-blown case of road rage. North Americans are taking their anger out on other drivers and in some cases, it's leading to violence.
Gerry Smith, vice president of Organizational Health at Warren Shepell, visited with Balance Television host Dr. Marla Shapiro to discuss how road rage can affect your health both inside and outside your vehicle.
Smith is a consultant on workplace violence and spends most of his time teaching organizations how to make their workplaces safer, including how to drive safely.
"There's the simple person, like me, who becomes quiet and maybe says a few bad words behind the steering wheel," Smith explained. "Then there's the other person who allows their anger to become explosive and gets out of the car with a baseball bat and starts batting your car to bits."
The person who's going to get out of their car and use that type of explosive violence is probably someone with a predisposition to aggressive behaviour anyway, Smith said.
He also noted that individuals don't compartmentalize their lives, so the explosive tempered individual is likely to carry that anger home and to work. Others of us make a choice when someone does something upsetting to us, to react lightly and let it go.
So how do we curb this sort of behaviour?
"First and foremost we must know what our trigger points are," Smith said. "Are we the type of person who's going to be triggered off by this guy who cuts us off, and if we are, how are we going to behave."
Second, if we're worried about being late for something or we have a busy day ahead, we should think about that beforehand and get an earlier, more relaxed start, behind the wheel.
Thirdly, if someone cuts you off or gives you the finger, don't take it personally because that's where our anger really comes from, he said. Don't jump to the conclusion that someone has done something deliberately to hurt you; that way your mind will allow you to react differently or not at all.
But can you do this in the heat of the moment?
"I believe you can," Smith said. "I believe you have an instantaneous second of choice to make, you either make the choice to be angry or make the choice to let it go and I think all of us can do that. Anger is something we choose to do. Anger is something we let happen. Most people think it's something that's beyond their control but it's not."
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