Psychology 409a - March 13, 2006
How to be a Supportive Driver and its Benefits.
By Aaron Kenna Reich

Leon James and Diane Nahl (2000). Road Rage and Aggressive Driving: Steering Clear of Highway Warfare. (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books) pp. 167-180

Instructions for this activity are found at:
Instructor: Dr. Leon James

I. The Benefits of Being a Supportive Driver

  • Tolerance is the key to overcoming the road rage culture law of retaliation. Stereotypical thinking leads to road road behaviors, so people need to open their minds and tolerate the multitude of driver styles that are out there.
  • Adaptive thinking allows us to perceive the possiblity that a driver who makes mistakes or is slower may be ill or in pain. This is also a more compassionate way to drive. Driving in this way helps us to connect in a peaceful way to strangers. There is no need to look at other drivers competitively or to highlight the differences. Instead, do simple acts that make you feel better for being a kind person.
  • Waving thanks to other drivers makes a human connection of sharing good will. Supportive driving has obvious emotional benefits, such as being in a positive state of mind while behind the wheel. Supportive driving can lead to mental improvements of noticing one's own mistakes and correcting them. Having a philosophy of support while driving opens the door for new thinking and a new way of living.
  • Cultivating a supportive style of driving has numerous benefits, including: helping to contain road rage, reducing stress, boosting the immune system, fostering community spirit, protecting from emotional and physical injury, and protecting from financial liability. Cooperative acts are emotionally intelligent because they help others to go with the flow, keep the pace even, and make positive connections between drivers. Emotionally intellgient drivers are more skilled and more supportive.
  • II. Training to be a Supportive Driver

  • Practicing supportive driving on a daily basis is the best way to continue the process of becoming a supportive driver. One needs to check his or her mirrors, compromise with other drivers and let them in when they want to, and leave plenty of space between one's own vehicle and the vehicle in front. It is important to sympathize with other drivers. Sympathy brings empathy and understanding and deeper insights into the self and others.
  • It is never good to make assumptions about the driving behavior of others. Like the old saying goes, to assume is to make an 'ass' out of 'u' and 'me'. We can never know the real intention of other drivers and so can never make assumptions about their behavior.
  • Being a supportive driver means learning to see oneself as part of a collective whole of all drivers. It is no longer me against the world, but rather, me as part of the world. Then, there is no more retaliation or competition. Instead, these feelings are replaced by feeling happy and at ease. Being peaceful is contagious and other drivers will benefit from your decision to be supportive in any action.
  • Supportive driving means to cultivate the following philosophy: to have a supportive attitude toward other drivers, to have tolerance of pluralism, to accomodate diversity, to shrink one's emotional territory, to feel integrated with the flow of traffic, to transform frustrated traffic into a community-building opportunity, and ot practice lifelong driver self-improvement.
  • Choosing to become a supportive driver is a lifelong commitment. There is no two-week course that can completely transform a person into a supportive driver. Even the most compassionate and supportive drivers need to continiously strive to improve their emotional intelligence behind the wheel.
  • III. Related Links

    1. Road Rage - Dixon Motors - This link provides an overview of road rage and ways to overcome the urge to be aggressive while driving. One of the suggestions for overcoming aggressive driving is to vocalize supportive statements to the self, for example, "I will have an enjoyable, safe trip." Making affirmations has shown to be a strong method for making positive changes of all kinds.

    2. Distracted Driving - This is a very short informational page that provides some tips on how to avoid distracted driving. Being a supportive driver means to know these tips well and always avoid driving while distracted, either with emotions or conversations.

    3. Overcoming Driving Phobias, Stress, and Rage - This is a web site that supplies a bulk of information all dealing with becoming a supportive driver. It focuses on overcoming past experiences and conditioning that have resulted in us being aggressive drivers. It is a product offered by a driving therapist that aims to inform drivers on the benefits of supportive driving.

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