Road rage is the term used to describe the violent or extreme reactions some drivers have to other commuters, cyclists and even pedestrians.

In some cases, the commute to work can cause even more stress than the job itself. A study at the University of California, Irvine, showed that an hour or more of driving to work every day can raise blood pressure. The stress of the commute can leave people more susceptible to getting sick, missing work and suffering from chest pains and backaches. Getting stuck in traffic can add to overall frustration, leave people in a bad mood, make them feel negative about their work and reduce their job efficiency and performance. Finally, commuter stress can lead to unsafe driving habits and possible car accidents.

Frustration and annoyance are normal reactions to rush-hour commuting. “Road rage” is not.

Researchers say a growing number of rush-hour commuters are developing road rage. They scream and yell at other drivers, make obscene gestures and drive aggressively or dangerously. Some make threats, challenge people–or accept a challenge–to pull over and fight, point weapons and even shoot. If you see someone else acting erratically, change lanes or alter your speed to get away from them.

Control Your Emotions and Your Car

Keep the following tips in mind to help you control any frustration that might develop while behind the wheel and to help you avoid becoming the victim of someone else’s anger. Doing so can keep your commuter stress to a minimum.
Everyone makes mistakes–when you do, admit it. If you accidentally cut someone off, wave an apology and try to be more careful in the future.

Make your car as comfortable as possible. Add cushions and back supports to prevent tension from building in your body.

Stay in your car. If someone challenges you or wants you to stop and get out of your car, ignore him. Avoid making eye contact with that person.

If you’re carpooling, keep conversation pleasant, rather than complaining about the traffic.
Consider pulling off the road for a few minutes to trade driving duties if you’re sharing a ride, or just to relax if you’re traveling by yourself.

Remember, you could be fined or ticketed for anything illegal you do on the road, regardless of another driver’s actions.

According to a study done at the University of California, the longer the commute, the more stressful it becomes. Commuters who traveled farther were found to have higher blood pressure. This was most noticeable when the commute to and from work was more than an hour.

This same study also reveals that commuter stress affects women more severely than men. This is possibly due to the fact that many women have both extensive job and family duties.

If you commute, look for ways to ease the stress and pressure. Try carpooling or taking mass transit.