Soft Music Soothes Road Rage

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Road rage is defined as violent or aggressive behavior exhibited by drivers toward other drivers in traffic, often as a manifestation of stress. According to a survey by AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety, aggressive driving accounts for more than half of all traffic fatalities. Aggression can take the form of a relatively mild “single finger salute” when a driver cuts you off, to the very severe actions of violence toward another driver.

It happens more often than you may think. According to a separate survey, about 89% of drivers have seen first-hand examples of road rage within the past month and 42% admitted to committing those actions themselves.

New research shows that a possible solution may be as simple as changing radio stations. Listening to soothing songs can calm drivers and prevent episodes of road rage from occurring.

Mellow music has a positive effect by making one calmer. The researchers, from Phillips Research Laboratories in the Netherlands and Stanford University in California, were surprised at how fast the calming effect occurs. Participants in the experiment switched their radios from fast-paced music to softer music abruptly and experienced an almost immediate effect. They showed measureable physiological improvements and additionally were noted to make fewer driving mistakes.

In a previous study from the same researchers, upbeat music seems to distract a driver, maybe because they tend to accelerate along with the tempo of the music. It puts the drivers in a less relaxed state and is associated with risky actions such as speedy or weaving in and out of traffic.

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In addition to soft music, you can control road rage with the following techniques:

1. Before you get behind the wheel, remind yourself that you are in control. You can’t change other drivers. Think positively and remind yourself to stay calm no matter the circumstances.

2. Remember that driving is a social activity. Everything you do has an immediate effect on those around you, so respect others in your “moving community.”

3. If you do become angry, count to 20 and breathe deeply. Switch the radio from anything that may have been contributing, such as a political talk show, upsetting news story, or heated debate. If you have a passenger, talk with them about something unrelated; something positive.

4. If another driver attempts to engage or confront you, do not make eye contact. Do not respond to his or her hostility. If you feel the driver is being reckless and putting others in danger, call the highway patrol but do not get involved yourself.

References:
Baseline of Health Foundation
• Preidt, Robert. "Mellow Music May Help Stave Off Road Rage." WebMD. 30 August 2013. Accessed 2 September 2013. http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/news/20130830/mellow-music-may-help-stave-off-road-rage
• van der Zwaag, M.D.; et al. "The influence of music on mood and performance while driving." Ergonomics. 2012. Accessed 3 September 2013. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22176481
AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
University of South Florida, College of Education

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