If done with the wrong mentality, operating a CVM on the public roadway can be a high stress job. Excessive stress can manifest as road rage and aggressive driving if not managed properly. As the face of our company, we always expect all our drivers to operate safely and with the highest level of professionalism. It is important for any driver to keep stress levels and their ego in check. Here are 5 key ways to reduce your stress levels when operating on a public roadway.
- Aim high in steering
- Look ahead at least 15 seconds to where you are going. Giving yourself 15 seconds of “eye lead time” is essential for picking up advanced warning signs of changing conditions.
- Advanced warning to changing conditions helps keep you from encountering starling surprises that might trigger a stressful fight or flight response. The advanced warning also gives you a chance to prepare for the actions of drivers around you who did not plan ahead.
- Get the big picture
- Maintain at least 4 seconds of following distance between you and the vehicle in front of you and check at least one of your mirrors every 5 to 8 seconds.
- By maintaining a following distance to at least 4 seconds you give yourself plenty of time to react to the actions of the vehicles around you. Conversely when you are following too closely you tend to hyper focus on the vehicle in front of you. This type of hype focus can be mentally taxing and very stressful.
- Keep your eyes moving
- Change your focus and move your eyes frequently. Eye movement and activity stimulate the brain and prevent staring. Staring can be absent minded or focused and will often cause you to lose track of relevant objects in the area.
- Leave yourself an out
- The safest position in traffic is where you have the fewest vehicles around you. It is generally when we feel our environment is uncertain and when we feel we have the least control that we at our highest levels of stress. When we operate in space we feel most certain and in control making our environment less stressful.
- Make sure they see you
- Seek eye contact or other definite acknowledgment from the other drivers before executing your maneuver. You may find it hard to believe that they don’t see a tractor trailer in their line of sight, but if they are staring they might not notice you.
- Always use your turn signals and other warning devices appropriately. You want to alert the other vehicles around you of your next intended maneuver with enough time for them to adjust. Don’t be afraid to engage your horn if necessary to make sure they see you.
Observing the five keys while operating your vehicle will help reduce on the job stressors that can trigger irrational responses to everyday occurrences commonly referred to as “road rage”. However, even if you are doing everything in your power to avoid and manage your own stress there isn’t much you can do for the rest of the motoring public. When you identify other drivers operating aggressively or in a reckless manner there are a few things to remember:
- Don’t provoke or be provoked. They are trying to illicit a response. Don’t give them the satisfaction.
- Give them a wide berth. Slow down and let them pass you by.
- Never make obscene gestures or use your horn in anger.
- Never engage in any form of physical confrontation. They are never worth it and can sometime escalate beyond control.
According to findings from the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) drivers who have been convicted of aggressive behaviors like reckless/careless/inattentive/negligent driving are 64% more likely to be involved in a crash. For any commercial driver, operating safely and professionally needs to be your first priority. Driving is not a competition. Leave the ego at home. If another driver is acting aggressively, don’t take their challenge. Just back off and live to drive another day!