Keep calm and conquer your traffic jam nightmares

One angry driver can’t start a fight unless another driver is willing to join in…

It seems that each day brings even more road users and traffic jams that congest South Africa’s roads. This can be infuriating for any driver, especially when you unexpectedly get caught up in a traffic jam that delays your journey.

At present, bus strikes have added to the chaos, with more commuters driving their cars into work, and if you’re like me, you’ve been experiencing the many hours stuck at a complete stand still in traffic.

So much runs through my head when overwhelming traffic jams become unbearable: Why are people driving to the middle of intersections when the traffic lights are read? And that taxi driver that obnoxiously pulls in in front of you at the very last minute after driving in the emergency lane? Or the driver who hasn’t planned his route properly and keeps changing lanes with no warning. It’s all a bit much. While I used to fall victim to reacting to these situations in a way that doesn’t do any good for my blood pressure, I’ve learnt that practicing safe and calm ways of dealing with these frustrations is the only way to get through it.

At the end of the day, there’s nothing you can do about a traffic jam. But you can do something about how you react to it.

“When you find yourself in a stressful driving environment or when your mood makes you irritable and impatient, calm down, take a deep breath and relax. An aggressive state of mind will come through in your driving behaviour and affects your safety and the safety of others. Be courteous, content and considerate. Accept the fact that you’re bound to meet all sorts of different drivers on the road. Don’t take things personally.” These are words of wisdom from Arrive Alive. Remember this and I promise it will help keep you calm and less aggravated on the road.

Here are some more suggestions from Arrive Alive. I’ve found that as mundane as they may seem, if you can practice as many of these tips as possible, it really does make for a less torturous experience in traffic jams. Keep calm out there…

  • When you merge, make sure you have plenty of room. Always use your turn signal to show your intentions before making a move. If someone cuts you off, slow down and give them room to merge into your lane.
  • If you are in the right lane and someone wants to pass, move over and let them by. You may be “in the left” because you are traveling at the speed limit – but you may also be putting yourself in danger by making drivers behind you angry.
  • Allow at least a two-second space between your car and the car ahead. Drivers may get angry when they are followed too closely. If you feel you are being followed too closely, signal and pull over when safe to do so, allowing the other driver to pass.
  • Use your horn rarely, if ever.
  • Keep your hands on the wheel and avoid making any gestures that might anger another driver. That includes “harmless” expressions of irritation like shaking your head.
  • Give angry drivers lots of room. If another driver tries to pick a fight, put as much distance between you as possible. And, remember “it takes two to tango”. One angry driver can’t start a fight unless another driver is willing to join in.

Also read: Don’t give in to road rage during the school term