After our recent story on road rage, you shared your own tips on staying cool behind the wheel.
After Pacific NW magazine writer Sandi Doughton wrote about the psychology behind road rage, we received many responses from readers about their experiences with Seattle traffic. Some included tips about how to stay cool behind the wheel, while others speculated about what makes traffic so terrible.
Below are some of our favorites. Responses were edited for clarity and length.
“I put on a lot of miles around these parts and have pretty much ‘seen it all’ when it comes to all types of drivers. The last two to three years have been the worst I’ve ever seen. Growth here is simply off the charts. As I’ve aged, I’ve mellowed a lot, erring on the side of common sense and courtesy, which has helped me avoid potential conflicts with other drivers. Aside from being courteous, I really have no control over what others do. Driving these days is a lot like flying — once you get to the airport and to the security check-in line, you really have no control over anything more at that point in regards to your planned trip. You are unhappy about it, but what can you do?”
— Jim Deller
“I wanted to share something I read many years ago about reducing stress while driving. The writer said to count to five. Not ‘one, two, three, four, five,’ like a parent counts when disciplining a child. The writer said you can’t get upset with another driver until you have had five instances of inconsiderate driving. I found that I rarely get up to three and get to my destinations without any stress!”
— John Pangis
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“This year I started calling my car the ‘Grace Mobile.’ I refuse to let other drivers trigger me. I cut them slack and breathe deeply. I arrive calm and relaxed. Such a better stance.”
— Heather Andersen
“This story made me recall a day 20+ years ago when my son fell on the street while rollerblading. He broke his right arm. I panicked, driving on I-5 at close to 90 mph without blinkers. I did not worry about other drivers. I was so focused on getting to the hospital, nothing else mattered. I made it without hurting anyone, despite my weaving in and out of dozens of cars. Each of those drivers may have wondered why I was so rude and reckless. I do get frustrated with traffic signals that don’t seem to change when no traffic is coming from the other directions, wishing there was a better system. But then I think, if I was a disabled person trying to cross the street… I’d like a longer red light, please.”
— Tim Robinson
“I began listening to books while driving, and it has changed everything about my driving experience. I now relish extra time in the car — do not mind hitting every red light, do not care if there is heavy traffic or if someone wishes to go ahead of me. It just means I get to hear more of my riveting story! If everyone listened to something they find compelling while driving, we may all be far more chill behind the wheel!”
— commenter ‘user1030989′
“I think a good part of the problem is that drivers don’t share a common sense of what is appropriate driving. Do you adhere to speed limits that no longer apply to traffic volumes, or do you go with the flow of traffic? Do you go out into the intersection for a left turn so that when the light changes you can proceed when clearing the intersection, or do you wait through several cycles of the light waiting for oncoming traffic to clear? And then there’s SDOT with its road diets and overcomplicating of simple interchanges…”
— commenter ‘osteveo’
“I find I am a calmer driver when I set realistic expectations before starting the trip: I ask Google to take me there. It gives me an estimated arrival time, shows me the congestion areas ahead and the expected delay times. It is almost always accurate. Knowing ahead of time what is going to happen prepares me emotionally to deal with it and gives me a sense of more control. I can tell others more accurately when to expect my arrival. The reduced uncertainty reduces my stress.”
— commenter ‘user14420250019669’
Did you appreciate this advice from your fellow readers? Don’t miss these 8 tips on being a more mindful driver, from Solan McClean, author of “Learning to Drive into the Now: PRND.” And read how Pacific NW magazine writer Sandi Doughton’s own foul traffic ordeals led her to explore the science behind road rage.