Staying cool behind the wheel: Road rage relief tips

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On the highways of metro Atlanta, the combination of nation-leading urban sprawl, traffic...

On the highways of metro Atlanta, the combination of nation-leading urban sprawl, traffic congestion and high temperatures make keeping calm behind the wheel both a challenge and a priority. Here's our advice on how to keep road rage at bay.

Consequences of road rage

Just last year in a suburb of Atlanta, a man was charged with several felonies for damaging another driver's vehicle with a tire iron. Of course this is an extreme example, but the lesson is clear: There are very real consequences for acting in anger while driving.

Things will inevitably occur on the road that will aggravate and, more often than not, frustrate you. Armed with that knowledge, it doesn't seem to make sense to get bent out of shape over getting cut off or blowing up because the driver behind you is riding your bumper.

On the road, effects are multiplied to a very real extent. The slightest misjudgment can cause serious injury, trouble with the law, or even death.

Road rage mitigation techniques

Find these tips fast, effective and easy to remember while you're on the road.

Just drive. "To control our movements, our emotions . . . or anything else, we must first control our attention," writes Daniel M. Wegner in his paper "Stress and Mental Control." When you get behind the wheel, focus on the task at hand as much as possible. Don't to use your cellphone or earbuds at all while driving, as these items tend to be major distractions.

Try parasympathetic stimulation. Not nearly as complicated as it sounds, this can be accomplished by simply breathing deeply from your diaphragm or lightly running your fingers over your lips, says Toni Bernhard, J.D., the former dean of the University of California Davis Law School. These simple acts have been shown to instantly increase your sense of calm.

Modify your behavior. Sometimes you may need to place yourself in the other driver's position. Ask yourself "How might he/she be feeling?" or "What if that were someone I knew?" suggests Dr. Leon James in his book Road Rage and Aggressive Driving.

Professional Consultation

If you feel like your road rage issues are more serious than simply taking a few deep breaths and reassessing the situation, it's recommended that you consult a professional. An Atlanta-area psychiatric professional will help you determine the proper course of treatment, should it be needed.

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