It’s tempting to think of your car as a private, protective space where you can vent your feelings more freely than you would normally feel able. It’s therefore useful to think of driving as a group activity, rather than a competition. Even if someone behaves in an excessive and unprovoked way towards you, your best course of action is to ignore them and avert any trouble.
It takes two
Keeping your own behaviour in check while driving will reduce the risk of others reacting in an aggressive way towards you. Always leave enough time for journeys, so that you don’t feel stressed before you even set out. If you have a quarrel with someone, give yourself a few minutes to calm down before setting off and don’t drive if you feel unwell.
Avoid listening to music with a heavy bass while driving and have it at a reasonable volume. Remember that you need to focus on what you’re doing, it’s important not to be preoccupied with other things.
Don’t cut in front of other vehicles or use your horn in an improper manner. Remember to leave at least a two-second gap between you and the car in front, and more if the road conditions are bad; ‘tailgating’ is dangerous and is guaranteed to wind people up. The last thing you want is an accident and on top of this having to make a car insurance claim. Wave an apology if you have made an error of judgement. Don’t throw anything out of the window, such as cigarette ends, cans or sweet wrappers. Allow others to overtake, even if you think they are being unreasonable. Slow down and hold back if they have pulled into your path.
This can be easier said than done, but try to be patient, polite and courteous and remember that anyone can make a mistake. If you become very agitated while driving, pull over when it’s safe to do so and give yourself a chance to calm down. Feeling hot and bothered? Turn the heater down, open the window a little and take a few deep breaths to lower your heart rate.
Flight not fight
If you find yourself growing annoyed with another driver, or their behaviour is worrying you, try to look confident and in control rather than angry or nervous. Lock the doors and keep the windows and sunroof closed if you are feeling vulnerable. Stay calm, avoid eye contact and don’t use rude gestures. Take pride in being the mature one. Your priority should be to defuse the situation and get away.
If you have to stop, stay in the car with the engine running so that you are ready to drive off. Still feel worried or are being followed? Drive on carefully, at the correct speed limit, to the nearest police station or a busy place, such as a garage forecourt. Use your mobile to call the police and your horn and hazard warning lights to attract attention. Memorise the registration number of the other vehicle, its make and colour and as much detail about the driver as you can.
No need for heroics
If you’re concerned about anyone else who may be under threat, the best thing you can do is drive to a safe place where you are able to stop and then call the Police. Don’t be tempted to jump out of your vehicle to help; you may make the situation worse.