A document with the word caa on it.

Feb 4, 2020

5 min. read

Why tempers flare on the road and how to keep calm and drive on.

A shaking fist, blaring horns, dangerous lane changes designed to frighten: Road rage takes many forms. But it never advances the goal of arriving safely.

Driving is perhaps the most interdependent activity possible; we encounter dozens or sometimes hundreds of other people during any given commute. In big crowds, like the concourse at a Jets game or walking through a busy mall, people tend to get along. But surround a driver with the anonymity of being inside a vehicle, and that same person who would quickly forget being jostled in a crowd flies into a rage at the smallest of driving inconveniences.

"Road rage typically has more to do with the current emotional state of the driver than the specifics of the driving infraction," says Constable Rob Carver of the Winnipeg Police Service. Being late, worry over a frustrating situation at work or anger at some other life distraction can easily turn a minor incident into a life-changing altercation.

Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) is trying to change that. The provincial public auto insurer has launched a campaign called Friendly Manitoba, which urges Manitobans to better manage their emotions behind the wheel.

MPI's anonymous survey of 1,500 drivers suggests three in 10 drivers admit to engaging in road rage. But their frustration behind the wheel doesn't actually help them on the road: The survey shows that drivers who maintain their anger-free composure are 35 percent less likely to be involved in collisions.

 Aggressive driving fuelled by anger is among the top four causes of vehicle collisions.

"We are trying to get the message out that angry driving isn't safe driving," says MPI's Brian Smiley. That anger can lead to aggressive driving behaviour, such as tailgating, weaving in and out of traffic and, in extreme cases, forcing another driver off the road.

Aggressive driving fuelled by anger is among the top four causes of vehicle collisions, alongside distracted driving, impaired driving and speeding, notes Teresa Di Felice, assistant vice-president of government and community relations for CAA Manitoba. "Really, what we all want is to arrive at our destinations safely," she says.

Di Felice suggests that drivers brush up on changing regulations so they don't annoy other drivers. Some things, like merging, operate differently today than just a couple of decades ago. She also recommends allotting enough time to get to your destination, and using apps like Waze or Google Maps to better plan routes and avoid frustrating delays.

If you feel anger start to build, take steps to cool off. "Turn on your radio and listen to something soothing to get yourself into a calmer frame of mind," Constable Carver advises.

If you feel threatened by another driver, do not engage that person. Instead, attempt to extract yourself by turning down a side street. If the other driver continues to engage, Carver suggests driving to a safe spot, like a police station or a public parking lot. "We also recommend calling 911 if you feel threatened."

Angry drivers should also remember that old adage: Keep calm and carry on. Just let it go and focus on the road ahead.

Share this article: