KEEP YOUR COOL: Controlling your breathing and not engaging with an aggressive driver could be the difference between life and death in a road-rage incident. Image: Shutterstock
South African commercial pilot Jacques van Tonder appeared in the Kempton Park Magistrate’s Court after an apparent road-rage incident during which another driver was shot.
He was travelling with two children (aged 10 and 14-years-old) in the car when he allegedly shot and killed Louis Jansen van Rensburg.
Van Rensburg had allegedly gestured for van Tonder to pull over, confronted him aggressively and tried to grab the accused’s firearm.
WHAT TRIGGERS ROAD RAGE?
Spokesperson for Afrikaans insurance company Virseker, Elmarie Twilley, said: “We live in times where people are more stressed and rushed and, consequently, more susceptible to anger and rage.
“Road rage is a recognised psychological phenomenon. Some people suffer from ‘intermittent explosive disorder’ or ‘IED’, which makes them more likely to have physically violent outbursts as a result of triggers they experience while on the road, but we should all be conscious of our emotional reactions while behind the wheel.”
If you’ve ever cursed at another driver, hooted excessively, tailgated a slow driver or tapped your brakes in front of a speedy follower, you have also exhibited some mild road rage-related behaviour.
Twilley said: "Road rage is not just bad for your blood pressure. You’re more likely to make riskier, more aggressive, driving decisions while angry. It’s a road safety hazard."
Isabel Clarke, a clinical psychologist who specialises in anger management, offers the following advice for dealing with anger:
1 Recognise your anger signs - If you notice signs that you're breathing quicker or that your heart is beating faster, get out of the situation if you have a history of losing control.
2 Count to ten - Counting to ten helps you to cool down, think more clearly and overcome the impulse to lash out.
3 Breathe slowly - You automatically breathe in more than out when you’re feeling angry. The trick is to breathe out more than in in order to calm down and think clearly.
4 Exercise – It helps to get rid of anger and irritation.
5 Look after yourself - Make time to relax regularly, and ensure that you get enough sleep. Drugs and alcohol can make anger problems worse.
6 Get creative - Writing, making music, dancing, painting and other creative outlets can release tension and help reduce feelings of anger.
7 Talk about how you feel - Discussing your feelings with a friend can be useful, and can help you get a different perspective on the situation.
8 Look at the way you think - Thoughts such as “It’s not fair,” or “People like that shouldn’t be on the roads” can make anger worse because it keeps you focused on whatever it is that’s making you angry. Let these thoughts go and it will be easier to calm down.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU'RE A VICTIM
Twilley recommends that drivers plan their time and routes carefully to avoid frustration, avoid driving when they are angry/exhausted, use public transportation where possible and listen to soothing music when they drive.
If you feel that you are being targeted by an aggressive driver on the road, she suggests the following:
9 Ignore verbal abuse and rude gestures. Do not engage the aggressor.
10 Keep your doors locked and your windows up.
11 If you are being followed, head to the nearest police station or any other public place that you can receive help.
CONSULT AN EXPERT
She also says that, if anger persists – perhaps due to underlying problems such as unresolved issues of the past, relationship problems, inability to express your emotions, stress, depression and others – it may be best to consult an expert.
Twilley encourages South African drivers to ensure that their insurance companies offer emergency medical and roadside assist, and that the relevant emergency contact numbers are saved onto their cellphones.
Twilley said: "If you make an effort to drive calmly and defensively, and you know in the back of your mind you’re prepared for the worst, it can alleviate a lot of stress before you even start your car."