Add anger to the list of dangerous distractions on the road.
Classic road rage, where drivers deliberately threaten or harass each other, is bad enough, but even just going down the road privately stewing can impair a person’s awareness and judgment. Aggressive driving is dangerous and unprofessional, and fleet managers do have a responsibility to ensure that their employees stay cool behind the wheel.
Simply saying “don’t drive angry!” may not be enough. Aggressive drivers might not realize they have a problem or might not know how to manage their own anger. Managers therefore face the double challenge of developing training protocols to address aggression and finding ways to identify who needs the training.
Fortunately, software that measures and analyzes safety can help.
While software features cannot spot some well-known road rage behaviors, such as following too closely or making rude gestures, it can record episodes of erratic driving, sudden braking, or failure to obey traffic lights and other laws of the road. Managers can then replay the recording and ask the driver what happened and whether the incident might have involved anger. In this way, the software not only shows managers that a problem with aggressive driving exists, but also makes clear who is involved.
Besides conducting training and even discipline focused specifically on aggressive drivers, there are other steps fleet managers can take to minimize road rage.
Perhaps the most important antidote is to give drivers adequate time to cover their routes given realistic projections of traffic volume. If drivers are not anxious about meeting their deadlines they will be less likely to lose their cool if someone else is drives too slowly or otherwise gets in the way. Encouraging drivers to make their vehicle more comfortable and relaxing—perhaps by playing enjoyable music, for example—is also helpful.
Basic driver training can also include a couple of tips related to preventing aggressive driving:
- Be polite, even with erratic or rude drivers. No hand gestures, shouting, or cutting people off.
- Signal properly when changing lanes and give other drivers plenty of room.
- Maintain a safe following distance at all times, even if the vehicle ahead is going slowly; trying to “push” another driver by getting in their space is rude, dangerous, and ineffective.
Drivers who find themselves on the receiving end of road rage should remember:
- Avoid extended eye contact, which could be perceived as a challenge, but do take note of the aggressive driver’s appearance.
- If threatened, call the police from a safe place. Do not stop on the side of the road.
- Stay behind aggressive drivers; it is a safer position.
- Never respond aggressively to an aggressive driver—do not try to win or to teach them a lesson, no matter what.
Anger gets the best of most people occasionally. A slow or chaotic driver can sometimes become the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back after a stressful day, and a person just boils over. One of the simplest ways to let go of such feelings is to imagine that the other driver is racing to respond to an emergency or distracted by genuine personal tragedy (whichever is more appropriate to their driving). It might even be true.