Holiday road rage can have deadly consequences for drivers, their passengers, or other drivers, which could include you or your family. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, aggressive driving causes over 50 percent of traffic fatalities. You do not want to be a statistic. This is why it is important to avoid being involved in a road rage incident if at all possible.
What causes holiday road rage?
In many cases, road rage around the holidays is caused by the same factors that contribute to aggressive driving incidents year-around. During the holidays, however, a rush to get everything done before it is time to celebrate often intensifies these factors.
- Stress: Stress makes people irritable and irritable people are less likely to be compassionate or to make smart decisions while driving. And we can all admit that–while we enjoy them–the holiday season is stressful. Whether the stress is related to work, family, or finances does not matter. It plays a factor in many instances of holiday road rage.
- Lack of sleep: Between family get-togethers, office holiday parties, and last minute shopping, it is not surprising that many people get less sleep during the holiday season than during the rest of the year. According to the National Sleep Foundation, missing sleep makes people restless and irritable, and more likely to become angered easily.
- Out-of-towners: Those who are not sure where they are going or are not familiar with streets can be frustrating to local drivers, and with the increase in traveling during the holidays, there are many more tourists on Seattle’s streets around Christmas.
- Shopping: Holiday shopping trips to the mall can be stressful, especially when looking for parking spaces. Parking lots are a common place for rageful confrontations, and when there are few open spots left, the chances of angering someone else are even higher.
- Cell phone use: Distraction from a cell phone can cause missed green lights, slow driving, and a variety of other rage-inducing behaviors. Phones are an issue all year and holiday planning may mean more calls and texts on the go.
- Weather: While our winters are generally mild in Seattle and the Puget Sound lowlands, a little bit of snow or a drop below freezing can also wreak havoc on traffic. Heavy rain may also cause some drivers to slow down for safety, angering others who are stuck behind them.
How can I avoid holiday road rage?
The best way to avoid becoming angered on the road during the holiday season is taking care to reduce your risk factors for holiday road rage. This includes:
- Not driving when under extreme stress
- Listening to relaxing music to help relieve stress
- Getting plenty of sleep
- Avoiding peak shopping times
- Shopping online in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas
- Staying home in poor weather
- Waiting to have a conversation until you are at home
- Focusing fully on driving by limiting distractions
While you can take steps to reduce your role in causing road rage, there are times it may be difficult to avoid angering another driver. The key to staying safe when this happens is to keep your cool. Even though you might be driving the speed limit, the driver behind you might want you to go faster; handling tailgaters is frustrating, but remaining calm and continuing to drive at a safe, legal speed is your best bet. This same advice carries over into any aggressive driving situation. Your best option is to prevent a road rage incident from escalating, not to add to it.