Latest Road Rage Case Shows Importance of Keeping Things in Perspective

The hunt is on in Las Vegas for the man who shot and killed a mom in a fit of road rage that flared while the woman was teaching her teen daughter to drive. The daughter accidentally came close to hitting another car during her lesson and the driver of that vehicle followed the duo home and confronted them. The road rage ended with Tammy Meyers, 44, dying of a gunshot wound to the head.

This and other recent road rage cases, like the two Massachusetts motorists who tried to settle things with baseball bats or the other incidents documented in this WebPsychology article, show the importance of keeping things in perspective. Sure, it might annoy you when someone cuts you off, or even narrowly avoids hitting your car, but it's never worth escalating the situation into something that could potentially turn fatal.

Whether or not normal stress tips over into road rage is based on several factors. Those who overreact generally take little incidents personally, like thinking that someone cut in front of them just to make them late for work. They don't feel empathy for others or realize the behavior could easily have been a mistake that's totally unrelated to them. Road ragers also feel the need to teach the person who slighted them a lesson, rather than simply shrugging off the incident and moving on mentally.

Based on those characteristics, here are some simple ways to keep things in perspective and keep your driving stress at a minimum:

Leave early and plan the best route. Other drivers don't conspire against you, but you can sabotage yourself by leaving at the last minute or not checking traffic on Google Maps before you leave. Give yourself plenty of time and know alternate routes.

Listen to music or a book while driving. These are soothing activities that calm and occupy your mind so you won't dwell on minor incidents with other drivers.

Put yourself in the other driver's place. When someone cuts you off or does something else reckless, don't assume that driver did it to annoy you. Come up with other reasons why it might have happened. The person could be hurrying home to a sick child or having a bad day that's causing mental distractions. This will help replace your anger with sympathy.

Don't drive when you're angry, stressed, or tired. Those mental states make you more vulnerable to reacting badly to other drivers.

Remember that a bad driver doesn't have to ruin your day. We all have the ability to choose to hang onto anger or let it go. Make the peaceful choice.

Try this road rage quiz to see if you're calm or a powder keg behind the wheel.