"All those driving slower than us are obstacles who should take to using public transport rather than make traffic more difficult. All those driving faster are road hogs who should go back to driving school."
If you agree with the above statement, read no further.
However if you do not want to struggle on the road but commute safely to your destination, read this article.
And perhaps we will encourage you to participate in the “Siemanko” campaign (What's up! campaign).
It is no secret that every driver deals with situations in which not only other drivers, but also passersby and cyclists, can give him a hard time.
There is often aggression aimed at other road users.
According to numerous psychological studies conducted, there are a number of different reasons for this.
The first is the sense of having our own freedom restricted (here: freedom of movement) by other road users. Thus, among others, there are especially frequent stressful situations in conditions of traffic jams. A similar effect is observed when we are unable to overtake a slower driver. Another stress-increasing factor is, for example, being aware that as a result of traffic congestion we will not be able to make it to an appointment.
Another aspect is the feeling of danger due to the behaviour of other road users. A classic example of this situation is when a car pulls up from the rear too quickly, especially one that is larger.
One particular aspect of road traffic which enhances our (negative) reactions and makes us forget the principles of good social conduct is the sense of anonymity that is associated with a car. In accordance with the principle „My home is my castle” we often treat our car: „My car is my mobile castle.”
Other road users are not Mr. X or Mrs. Z but anonymous individuals moving around our „castle”.
As a result we do not treat others personally, but objectively. This is a classic situation, which nowadays is openly visible even on numerous online forums where anonymity leads to aggressive and immoral (according to classical norms) attitudes.
To the already mentioned aspects, add a very egocentric view of the world from behind the wheel (resulting from the above-quoted „domestication” of the car). Other users no longer drive slowly but they block us deliberately. They do not go faster but overtake us stupidly.
In fact, most other drivers do not think about us at all. For them, we are completely anonymous. Their actions have not even a causal link with what we do behind the wheel. They just move in a certain direction for a given purpose. Just like we do. And because we move on the same road at the same time and place - well, it is simply a coincidence of space and time.
To reduce the stress of driving we must understand the fundamental truth number 1:
This „other driver” is not here to hinder our lives; he is here because he is moving in a certain direction just as we are.
When assessing the behaviour of other drivers we should realize that in most cases, their evident (negatively evaluated by us) behaviour does not have any relationship with us. If someone is driving, for example, very slowly and is slowing us down, it is most likely because he has a reason (which we are not aware of!). Perhaps he is unwell. Maybe he has little experience behind the wheel, his car is in a poor condition, or he simply wants to „roll about” to the next gas station.
Or maybe he is transporting packages full of fresh eggs that we would willingly buy ourselves (if he succeeds in delivering them at all)...
Similarly, the one driving faster does not want to prove to us that he has a stronger car or he is a better driver. Maybe he is in a hurry to a hospital where his first child is about to be born. Or maybe he wants to meet his beloved one.
And here comes the fundamental truth number 2:
This „other guy” is not driving too fast/too slow (delete as appropriate) to make our life more difficult; he just may have his reasons.
There are people behind the steering wheels of all cars. Pensive, herding people struggling (as we all do!) with their problems. They have normal human frailties, they are sometimes distracted, sometimes hurrying. Among them there are beautiful girls, friendly old men, great writers, our neighbours and friends. People, who, however, in contrast to a situation when they bump into us at the supermarket, do not really have a chance to say sorry ( because they are encapsulated in a car). Despite this handicap (which also applies to us, after all!) they are not anonymous. Before we show the middle finger or begin to curse, let us think whether we would do the same thing when meeting this beautiful blonde/handsome stranger (again delete as appropriate) from our neighbourhood in a theatre...
And here we come to the fundamental truth number 3:
This „other one” is not anonymous; before we unnecessarily get angry let us think for a while whether we would do the same thing when meeting him/her personally at our mutual friends' house.
Another element, a more advanced one (unfortunately), is an aggressive interaction between participants of road traffic. Behaviour that is perceived (in most cases wrongly!) as aggressive arouses „retaliation”. You overtook me so now I will overtake you - let us see who has a better car! You are so close to me so now I will slam on the brakes, see how you like it! You want to overtake me motherfucker - let's see whether you will make it between my car and the one in front of me!
Such reactions not only cause unnecessary stress but they even deliberately pose a threat to life and health. And this also applies to our loved ones in our car. According to studies conducted up to 50% (!) of road accidents may be caused by aggressive behaviour of drivers (American studies). Even if the definition of aggressive behaviour in the cited studies appears to be too widely recognized, the corresponding Dutch studies assume that it exceeds 10%. And in the Netherlands, compared to many other countries, people drive really very slowly! Assuming, however, that it is only 10%, just by maintaining a proper driving culture and keeping our emotions in check, we could save over 2000 (!) lives in the EU.
And here we come to fundamental truths number 4 and 5.
This „other one” did not behave aggressively towards us; his behaviour resulted from a simple error, bad judgment or any other reason.
If the above statement cannot be regarded as a factual state, even in the most optimistic version, (e.g. we see that he accelerated consciously to prevent us from overtaking him, etc.), we are certainly dealing with a classic idiot.
And then we come to fundamental truth number 5 (hence the above dual truths):
If „the other one” is an idiot, we will not teach him anything, and we should not risk our own lives and health for him.
What is the conclusion?
Well, even if we follow the above cited truths, other drivers will not know about it. Worse - if we answer an „act of aggression” with a smile, it can be treated as an act of...aggression (mocking someone).
While in direct interaction we can possibly explain such misunderstandings using words, when driving it is not possible for obvious reasons.
When talking with someone we shake hands (note: a handshake is a symbol - we manifest that we do not have a weapon), when driving a car we do not have such a possibility.
However, we can use a symbol to replace the handshake, which is to present an open hand (the same meaning - peaceful intentions). And those who are exceptionally slow at reading symbols should understand an accompanying smiling face as something with no bad intentions.
So, let us greet everyone else driving with the trendy, youth-related „Siemanko” (“What’s up” / „Howdy”) as a sign that we are driving on the road for ourselves and not against other road users.
And youth is associated (rightly!) with the joy of life - which makes it even better.
Let the always smiling, young rally driver Wojtek Chuchała, whose nickname is „Siemanko”, personify both our positive attitude to other road users, as well as another fundamental truth:
someone who is really good at what he does, does not need to prove it to anybody.
Siemanko - see you on roads and streets! :)
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