It seems the season of goodwill is well and truly behind us now. Without the fun and festivities of the party season to look forward to, those January blues have now officially set in and in some extreme cases are manifesting themselves in the form of road rage.
Halfords Autocentres conducted a survey, which showed that we really are a nation of grumpy drivers, with 23% of respondents feeling that unfriendly and bad tempered driving behaviour was a major issue, particularly during the winter months. A fifth of drivers reported noticing an increase in incidents of aggressive and impatient driving such as excessive use of the horn, flashing lights and failing to allow vehicles to pull out into queuing traffic.
Let's face it; an inconsiderate driver can make even the most mild-mannered person seethe with rage! As a commuter as well as a lawyer, I see more than my fair share of what I consider to be rather bad driving. Tailgating, lane hogging, speeding and being cut up by other drivers all seem to be part and parcel of life on the road these days.
As many people take to the wheel after a long day at work, all they want to do is get home as quickly as possible. The drive home is often the time when we reflect on the stresses of the day or the stresses of life in general. If we are already feeling a bit fed up; an inconsiderate act by another driver can tip us over the edge.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) describes a good driver as someone with a responsible attitude to other road users as well as having a high level of concentration, observation and anticipation. All drivers make mistakes at some point; we are all only human after all. Very often, an innocent mistake will instigate an aggressive response from another motorist such as speeding, sudden braking or undertaking.
ROPSA has provided some useful tips on keeping calm on your journey:
• Do not over-react to another driver's error; they may be unaware of what they have done. Try to stay away from them and concentrate on your own driving;
• Avoid getting into conflict with another road user; some drivers are looking for a reaction or some competition. Focus on your own driving;
• If confronted by another driver, do not get involved in any gesturing, headlight flashing or sounding the horn. This will not achieve anything and is likely to distract you;
• If you accidentally make a mistake whilst driving, hold up your hand as a friendly acknowledgement to diffuse any potential rage; and
• Try to focus on the present and your driving, rather than your destination as this can make you feel more frustrated
Driving in Winter
The dangers presented by bad drivers are heightened by other factors during the winter months. The volume of traffic on the roads during the winter generally increases and consequently, so does the potential for accidents to happen. At this time of year a warm car takes precedence over a lengthy wait at a freezing cold bus stop, as more people are likely to take to their cars instead of public transport. Queues of traffic quickly form on the more major routes as drivers avoid the quieter roads, which may be flooded or don't receive a visit from the grit lorries.
In recent weeks much of the UK has been deluged with heavy rain and high winds and there is always the risk that the snow will start falling again soon. The chance of accidents occurring is far more likely during such bad weather. Stopping distances in wet conditions will at least double, which makes the practice of tailgating even more risky.
Traffic Jam Survival Guide
To help combat this season of discontent on the road, Halfords have devised a Winter Survival Guide. I think the tips on how to survive a traffic jam are particularly useful to all commuters who find themselves feeling frustrated in those never ending queues. My favourites are:
• It's always good to plan your journey, by setting off earlier or later it may be possible to avoid some of the worst rush-hour traffic or find quieter routes.
• Catch up on tasks, rehearse a presentation, practice how you will answer those interview questions, call someone (using hands free), plan your next holiday.
• Don't clock watch or lane hop, changing from lane to lane is not likely to get you very far and you are more likely to be involved in an accident.
• Listen to music, a favourite CD should make you feel more relaxed.
• Breathing exercises can help to de-stress, breathe in through the nose for a count of 5, hold for 5 then breathe out through the mouth for another count of 5 to feel calmer.
Within my role I see first hand how much expense and inconvenience even a relatively minor accident can cause. As well as the shock and upset of being involved in an accident, my clients then have the inconvenience of having to make alternative transport arrangements whilst their vehicle is repaired. Insurance companies can be slow to reimburse out of pocket expenses too, which is always frustrating for the innocent motorist.
Busy roads and traffic jams are here to stay. But to make our journey safer and less stressful, I think we all need to make our new year's resolution to be a little kinder and more considerate to our fellow motorists.
How do you stay calm during your commute or when stuck in traffic jams? Share your tips in the comments below.
About the author
Sarah Schoolar is a graduate member of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives and worked in Spencers motor litigation team. Sarah has over five years experience in civil litigation and handles cases predominately involving car accident claims.