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October 26, 2016

Surviving Rush Hour
By Scott Roush
Veterans of rush hour traffic, raise your hands. You know what I'm talking about. It's like a stock car race out there. Bumper to bumper traffic. Cars right on your bumper even though you're going as fast you can. A typical rush hour: Speed up as fast as you can and then slam hard on the brakes when traffic slows.

The problem with these scenarios is that the people in the cars are not professional drivers, they are ordinary people like you and me who often take unnecessary risks during rush hour so they can get to their destination as fast as possible.

In addition to people driving unsafely, you can also add road rage to your list of rush hour worries. The stories seem to come right out of a Hollywood movie. A man throws a dog of another driver into oncoming traffic because he was mad at the driver. A student knifes another driver after a fender-bender. A retiree shoots a teen-ager for taking his parking spot.

It's almost like a war zone on today's roads; and during rush hour it only gets worse. So, what can you do to survive the perils of rush hour?

Turn the Other Cheek

It's tempting when someone cuts you off; maybe you want to speed up and do the same thing to him, or perhaps you want to give that person some type of hand signal (and I don't mean a friendly wave, either).

However, to avoid trouble, don't respond to these road bullies. If you decide to tailgate the person or make obscene gestures, you are only amplifying the problem.

Negative reactions to situations like this may result in the driver upping the ante by following you too closely or getting in front of you and slamming on his brakes. If the other driver does something like this, move into the next lane and slow down. This will usually defuse the tense situation.

Tailgating Dilemmas

Say you are just driving along, minding your own business when you look in your rearview mirror and notice a car following way to close to you. What would you do?

Some people would tap on the brakes as a not-so-subtle message that the driver is following too close and should back off. Don't do this. That response may be interpreted by the driver as a hostile act and could lead to an escalation of the situation.

Chances are the driver behind you has simply taken his mind off driving for a minute and has no idea that he is right on your bumper. Wait a while and the car behind you will usually drop back and get off your bumper.

Avoid Eye Contact

It's so tempting. You finally get around the jerk and are free of his driving tactics. But before you pull away from him, you want to give him a glance and let him know you are upset.

Avoid making eye contact with the driver. Once eye contact is made; the other person has been engaged. Limousine drivers, who are bound to protect their passengers, never make eye contact with other drivers. They just cruise through traffic, oblivious of anyone who might want to look at them and cut off the big, shiny car.

You don't know anything about the person you just glanced at while passing. It could be someone on drugs. Or the driver could have just had a fight with their significant other. Or the person could have a gun. A driver who is upset or mentally unstable may not let you get away.

Come back tomorrow for Surviving Rush Hour Part 2.

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