Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash

I’m a big fan of John and Hank Green. They’re two internet-famous brothers who make a lot of awesome content to make the world better. I was recently perusing YouTube when one of their videos caught my attention. The title was “Why Is It So Hard to Fix Traffic?” It was a fascinating watch, but it also changed the way I drive because of the facts it shared about non-aggressive drivers. Let’s talk about these, and how these traffic lessons have made an impact in how I view the people around me.

In the video, Hank talks about Traffic Waves. You know how sometimes on the freeway you’ll come to a stop, only to magically start going again? These are called traffic waves and are caused by an aggressive driver cutting off someone, making them tap their breaks. Well, the people behind tap their brakes, and so on and so forth till you’re stopped for no reason. The solution is easy: leave more space in front of you while driving. Additionally, aggressive driving uses about 20% more gas than non-aggressive driving. Aggressive drivers also get in more accidents, and they don’t actually save that much time.

So, I put these tactics to work. I began driving patiently and cooperatively with my fellow drivers—much to the chagrin of some people behind me (because I like to follow the speed limit now). As I’ve done so, I’ve become far less angry when I drive. I used to think all the people who would zoom around me were jerks, and I would make my “angry hands” when someone cut me off (no, not flipping them off, just shaking angry fists at them—it’s much more intimidating). Now, I take a deep breath, decelerate, and say, “They must really need to be somewhere.” I started giving people the benefit of the doubt, and as I did so on the road, I was more readily able to do it in all of life’s circumstances.

Consequently, driving less aggressively has made me happier in general. You know how sometimes when there are just crazy people on the road, you get out of your car so.stinking.mad? Let’s analyze that for a moment. Someone, who you don’t even know, cut you off in traffic, and you are letting it ruin your day, or your hour, or even those few minutes. Isn’t that sort of ridiculous? Especially since you have no idea what their circumstances were. If you were able to talk to that person and they really did have a reason to be driving like Evel Knievel, wouldn’t you feel shameful and stupid for acting so petty? Sure, they probably don’t have a great reason, but that doesn’t really matter; what matters is how you react and how it affects the rest of your day.

So next time a car is going real slow or cuts you off or does something idiotic, take a breath, give them the benefit of the doubt, and please don’t tap your breaks—no one wants to be stuck in traffic.

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