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This morning, as I was driving my daughter to school, a car was driving closer behind my car than I felt comfortable with. There seemed to be a sense of urgency in the driver. These days, rather than getting irritated or annoyed, if I can and if I’m not in a hurry myself, I’ll just pull over and let them pass. So that’s what I did.

Later, we drove around a bend and there was the car, driving close up behind the van in front. I commented that despite the impatience and speed of the driver, they were no further along than we were – their racing ahead of us really had made no difference to their overall progress in getting ahead. The van also pulled to one side and let them pass.

My daughter then said “They might be running late for work.”. Oh yes! Thinking of different scenarios of why someone is speeding or tailgating or other dangerous driving behaviours on the road is how I trained myself out of getting annoyed and irritated. I’ve been modelling this to my kids for years now. “Maybe his wife is having a baby and he’s racing to get to the hospital”, I’d say. Or “Maybe this is the third time she’s late for work this week and is going to lose her job if she doesn’t get to work on time.”. “Maybe he’s had a bad day and is really stressed and dysregulated right now.”

My getting angry and stressed on the road doesn’t make any difference to the behaviour of the other driver – it just affects my stress levels and health. I’m much better off training myself to not be affected by it and to drive safely myself.

I smile at my daughter. “Thank you for the reminder.”, I say.

Empathy is learned.

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