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Readers rage on over offenses on the road

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A recent story on road rage sure got our readers’ blood boiling. Of the 11,000 readers who chimed in on our live vote, only 11 percent said they had never experienced road rage. While 45 percent of readers deal with driving stress by singing along to the radio, 33 percent “wish bad, bad things on other drivers.”

As for how to cope with road rage, readers suggested everything from listening to calming music to pulling off the road to giving the other driver a friendly wave.

Jay of Houston writes: “Whenever some angry person on the road honks a horn or gives a one-finger salute, I use humor to stay calm. I say out loud in the car, even if my teenage son is with me, that the person is just testing his horn or that he is so proud of his IQ he just wants us to know, too.”

A reader from Dallas, Texas, keeps bubble wrap in his car for those times he’s stuck in traffic. “I LOVE to pop those little air bubbles, which relieves my stress and has had the added benefit of strengthening my fingers and hands. Popping the stuff when driving alone in my car keeps my stress level down and doesn't put me or else in danger.”

A surprising number of you are admitted road ragers but said bad drivers — those who talk on a cell phone, fail to signal or impede the fast lane — are what fuels your temper.

Mark Lowell of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., writes:  “It is my belief that the primary cause of road rage is that drivers in this country fail to follow one of the fundamental laws of driving that is on the books in every state. That is, ‘Keep right except to pass.’

Read on for more reader responses:

Before I had my daughter, I was that "road rage" person speeding down the lanes, cutting off what I would call "Slow pokes," not letting other people merge in for fear that someone was going to beat me. Now every day I say, "Who cares?" I don't care if someone wants to get in front of me, go right ahead, if someone wants to get past me, I am moving over. I have no control over what other drivers are going to do, so why do I need to put myself or my child at  risk.

Laura, Clearwater, Fla.

I play driving like a video game: When I avoid an accident / reckless driver, I give myself imaginary points. It's worked fine for me for many years.

Bob Abrams, Oklahoma City

I am the sort of driver who is probably often labeled "aggressive." I weave in and around traffic, tailgate other drivers from time to time and generally drive fast. However, my heartbeat remains an even 60 beats per minute during all of this because I'm really not angry at all, I just drive fast. I drive very well, however, and safely. I have long ago given up the idea that other drivers would obey the law and rules of the road. And if you're wondering, yes, when I'm in the left lane and a faster driver wants to overtake me, I pull into the right lane — every single time.

Brian, Lansing, Mich.

For years my object was to get from point A to point B as quick as possible (yes, that means loads of road rage folks). One day, stuck in traffic, it struck me that this impatient behavior was carrying over to other areas of my life. I justified being in a hurry because I would relax once I got there. But my ultimate realization was that I was rushing from one thing to another in every facet of my life, never really stopping to process anything, like a hamster on a wheel. I'm hurrying to get to work, then hurrying to get through work, then hurrying to get home, then hurrying to get through my night routine... "When does it end?" I asked myself. "When I'm dead?" No thanks. As distasteful as it may be, I now force myself to calm down on the road and try to be present in the moment, and I must admit, it does fell good letting go just that little bit.

— Terek Johnson, Portland, Ore.

Our society has become so inconsiderate of others in every way. So, I suggest that instead of getting mad that you smile at the person you let merge into your lane. Use your blinker and thank the person who let you merge over to make the exit when you didn't plan soon enough. Get off the phone while you are driving so you are aware that the next exit is the one you need to take in the first place. If attention is put back into driving instead of other gadgets, road rage may even improve. Good luck, be courteous and happy commute!

MaryEllen Zaher, Chelmsford, Mass.

An exercise I use quite often is this. When a driver makes a mistake, like cutting me off, I contemplate those times I have done this to others, inadvertently or not. As I focus on my own short comings, the guy that cut me off is long gone, and my mind is too preoccupied to do anything rash. It gives me the time I need to cool off and forgive the offense.

Richard Heward, Utah

The last time that I had road rage was in 1959. I was a new driver and more immature than I realized. The most important thing that I do to prevent road rage is to add 15-20 min. to my travel time. If you think about the time that you waste each day, it is easy to do. Then, think about how long that it will take for the police, wrecker, ambulance, etc. to arrive and clear up the mess. Also, think about the other costs and time that would be necessary if you were injured, or arrested. THINK!!! You are not saving time by driving recklessly.

Al, Myrtle Beach, S.C.

I get frustrated at bad drivers. Those who drive in the fast lane under the posted speed limit, people who change lanes without signaling, those who talk on their cell phones in the fast lane and lose track of their speed or even people who don't know where they are going and refuse to pull over to figure it out. The best thing I do is just listen to a good CD or morning talk show and try to drown out the bad drivers. When I see someone do something stupid and thoughtless like this I try to change lanes to get as far away from them as possible. If they wreck I don't want to be a part of it.

April, Mount Laurel, N.J.

I use the road rage epidemic to my advantage. To keep a safe distance, I practice gradual acceleration and braking and visualize saving gas costs and brakes. Knowing that road ragers are dangerous, I get out of the way and try and see how much difference their driving makes. I usually catch up to them at the next light or off-ramp or gas station.

Orlando, Texas

I tend to suffer from road rage. I think people are not aware of their surroundings. And if people don't suffer from road rage please have them stay out of the fast lane. Just because they're not in a rush doesn't mean no one else is. Stop giving advice on how to handle road rage. Instead give advice to people who like to provoke it on how not to provoke it. How I handled my road rage? I changed my schedule. I commute when no one else is.

Alex Jaramillo, Miami

I ride a motorcycle and always have to keep road rage in check. On a bike, the slightest road rage can cause a deadly accident and I'd be the victim, not the person who upset me in the first place. I do have to say that there are a lot of motorists out there who do not give those of us on motorcycles any respect. I usually leave a little over a car’s length of space between myself and the vehicle in front of me when on the motorcycle, just in case they decide to stop suddenly. Bikes do not stop as nicely as cars do in a panic stop. There is the chance for wheels to lock up and the bike to slide, sending the rider skidding across the pavement. Well it seems that when I leave that space in front of me, other drivers see it as an invitation to fill it in and end up cutting me off. Show a little respect for the motorcyclist who doesn't feel like laying his bike or himself down on the road and don't fill in the gap.

Anonymous, Latrobe, Penn.

I am in sales so I spend many hours on the road each week. The thing I do is allow extra time for appointments. I am not in a hurry so I can drive within the speed limit and even if I get in a jam from an accident or road construction, I have planned for it. I also take books on tape with me.

Anonymous, Cookeville, Tenn.

I was usually a pretty bad road rager, flipping the bird, yelling out my window at times. One of my middle finger's got me chased,(granted, he was the one that ran the stop sign) but once he realized that I was driving to the police station, he backed off. But ever since a driver had a gun pulled on them in my home town, I've decided to put the finger away.

Donna, Farmington, Conn.