There is a terrific line in the comedy classic ‘Groundhog Day’ where Bill Murray’s character (who feels invincible because he is ‘stuck’ in a day of his life that keeps repeating itself) allows himself to be driven by a groundhog – after getting in the car with the groundhog behind the wheel, he says to the groundhog ‘Don’t Drive Angry!’.

Of course in this instance those words were uttered for the sake of a comedic scene in a movie, but they hold some deep truth for when we get behind the wheel. For any road user, a simple road trip can quickly push the blood pressure sky high when someone in front is driving erratically.

We can also get in to a vehicle feeling angry after just having had an argument with someone. Carrying anger from outside to inside a vehicle can be explosive if we add a motoring incident to the mix. Being cut off by another motorist can take you from mild annoyance to an explosive rage if you have gotten behind the wheel while still angry.

Anger can impact our judgment and ability behind the wheel. It can make a good driver into an aggressive one very quickly, causing us to overreact when faced with an incident or a ‘near-miss’.

Here are a few tips on how to re-focus after an on-road incident to ensure that you ‘Don’t Drive Angry’:

DO

  • Take a deep breath. When we are tense or angry we tend to stop breathing (just for a few moments) or take very shallow breaths and this makes us more tense. So take a few deep, slow breaths and you can feel yourself start to relax.
  • Think happy thoughts. You can get your mind to switch to another emotional state by thinking of something that made you laugh or smile (think of your partner, children, pet).
  • Change a negative into a positive. Even though what may have just happened was life threatening or just plain dangerous, you can switch the incident around to a positive by saying things like ‘at least I am OK and haven’t been hit’, ‘at least I don’t drive like that’ or ‘I wouldn’t make that decision and annoy other drivers’.
  • Turn the radio on and switch stations until you find some light music or music that makes you sing along. This will improve your mood and switch your mind away from what has happened on the road.

DON’T

  • Retaliate. Yes, the person may need to sit another driving test, but perhaps they are having a bad day as well. Give them the benefit of the doubt and remember the times when you made some decisions that weren’t perhaps the most compliant to the road rules.
  • Keep replaying the event in your mind or talking about it with someone else in the truck. That will keep you angry and tense, which can impair your judgment behind the wheel. Instead, make a comment and then get on with the job of driving safely.
  • Store up the anger. When you get a chance, go for a quick walk or engage in some other healthy physical exertion (a quick swim, jog, kick a ball around) in order to get a physical release of the emotional energy that you are storing. It will help to get you calm again.

If all else fails, make sure you hire a copy of Groundhog Day and watch it so you can remember the scene where Punxsutawney Phil is driving and Bill Murray utters those words ‘Don’t Drive Angry’ – that way you can replay it in your mind every time something happens on the road and it will bring a smile to your face.

If you experiencing problems in your relationships and think that you may need to make some changes, please call Relationships Australia on 1300 364 277 or visit www.raq.org.au and we can arrange for you to talk to an experienced counsellor.