Fuse control

| February 01, 2006

Considerable stress and highway insanity are parts of the job. Trip planning, breaks, exercise, patience, courtesy and defensive driving are all tools professional drivers use to diffuse stress, avoid road rage in themselves and others, and deliver the freight safely and on time.

“There’s really no excuse for road rage,” Chris Rogers says. “You can avoid it. It takes work, but you can avoid it.”

Keep Road Rage in Check
Use these techniques to take control of your emotions while driving

When there’s no time to pull over for a break, truckers behind the wheel can keep calm with “Self-Witnessing,” a mental tool created by Dr. Leon James, professor of driving psychology at the University of Hawaii.

A foremost expert on road rage, James has dissected it into three successive parts: the brain’s feelings, thoughts and action commands. James has had great success getting drivers to “witness” these activities in themselves and control them.

He suggests the “think aloud” method for witnessing feelings and thoughts. In other words, speak your mind: all of it.

“Once you speak your thoughts out loud, you can witness them,” he says. “But if you don’t speak them out loud, they go by so fast you won’t even see them.” That means all thoughts, not just some. “The drivers speak thoughts aloud continuously,” James says.

“Through their thoughts, drivers can get to their feelings. They’re harder to control, but it can be done.

“Get to know yourself,” James says. “What makes you mad? When do you get angry?” He says to note these instances, and when they occur, “witness” your feelings about them. “You might notice that your first reaction is either anger or fear.”

That’s not an anger problem. “That’s normal,” James says. “It’s our first reaction, and for the first five seconds, it’s OK to express that.”

But your next thoughts are crucial. “By what you think and say, you can either escalate that or talk yourself out of it,” James says. “If you stay with it and vent to yourself, you’re only polluting your own mental environment.”

James says this is a solo act. “You’re the one keeping that anger up,” he says, thus giving the offending driver control.

“Don’t put your sails up in somebody else’s wind,” James says. That doesn’t mean suppress the anger; transform it with positive thoughts and words.

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