I am writing this email to you with tears in my eyes and my hands are shaking. I’ve just returned home after yet another nightmare driving experience with my husband. He did not used to be this way, but for the past year he drives very aggressively and is quick to anger at the slightest provocation by other drivers.
Just this morning we were being tailgated by some jerk and instead of just ignoring him, my husband slammed on his breaks and almost caused an accident. Two weeks ago he got out of his car in a parking lot and banged on the window of a driver who had cut him off. She took off and he wanted to follow her, but thankfully I talked him out of it.
I am frightened for my husband and myself. What can I do to make him see that his behavior on the road is dangerous? What if the next person he has an altercation with has a gun? I love my husband very much and have tried to talk to him about this but he won’t listen and says the problem lies with everyone else, not him.
Dear Albuquerque Wife:
Thank you for your email and the subsequent email conversation we had. I am glad your children are grown and no longer being chauffeured by your husband, but I worry for your safety and until you can help him change his dangerous driving habits I suggest you don’t ride in the car with him anymore.
You have been married for 21 years and he has generally been a safe driver. Suddenly last year all that changed, and you don’t understand why. I think I do, so please bear with me as I list several life changes that may have increased your husband’s propensity for angry driving.
Quite frankly, I’m not surprised you didn’t put all this together, because it takes an advice genius named Robin DesCamp to identify such things. Fasten your seatbelt because truth can have injurious impact!
1. 18 months ago your husband lost his job and has not been able to find another one. He is deeply worried about the family finances and thinks he is not competitive in the job market any more because of his age (55).
2. One year ago your youngest child left the family home. Unfortunately, she did not go to college, but rather is traveling around the southwestern US with her band and pursuing a career in music. Your husband wanted very much for your daughter to go to college and someday law school, something your daughter never indicated she wanted to do.
3. His best friend died quite suddenly of a heart attack 9 months ago.
4. You have been busier than usual at work for the past year because your new position requires a lot of travel.
That’s a lot of change, most of it negative, for one man to take. It’s entirely possible he may be channeling his rage into his driving. I have a few pieces of advice for you:
1. Make an appointment with a marital counselor and have an open discussion with your husband about how his driving affects you, both when you are driving with him and when he is driving alone. Express how worried you are about his road rage leading to an accident in which he and others are hurt or killed, or someone assaulting him.
Obviously there is a connection between his sudden change in driving and the tough year he has had. A counselor should be able to help him sort out his feelings in a productive way and redirect his anger into something positive. And although you told me you see your marriage as generally happy, he may not be feeling the same way. It may be prudent to do a deep dive on the status of your relationship.
2. Show him pictures like this, taken at the scene of a fatal road rage incident:
3. Don’t ride in the car with him until you think he has been working on this issue and you can trust him with your safety.
4. He drives a Prius, which just cracks me up because you told me the incident this morning involved a Suburban. Buy him a book on the basic principles of physics, and remind him that in a fight between a Prius and a Suburban, he is almost certain to come out ahead, but by ahead I mean shot out the windshield and ahead into the car in front of him.
5. Brush him up on some legal matters. I can’t give you legal advice, and I’m too lazy to look up some New Mexico links for you (Google is your friend!) but I can tell you that here in Oregon, a friend of mine was once arrested for assault for the exact same thing your husband did: getting out of his car and knocking on the window of another vehicle.
He didn’t pound on the window, he simply knocked. The woman behind the wheel had cut him off and almost caused a terrible accident, and he happened to be driving with his pregnant wife in the car. In his anger, he got out and knocked on her window to initiate a “conversation,” and this cowardly bitch called 911. The next thing he knew, he was being arrested.
In addition, in many states aggressive driving can result in higher traffic fines and insurance premiums as well, so if he is worried about finances he is really pissing on his own leg by driving like an ass.
6. Insist that you and your husband meet with his general practitioner together. You told me that the aggressive driving isn’t the only change in your husband in the past year. He has also seemed moody, distant and impulsive. I don’t want to freak you out or anything, but major personality changes can be related to health issues beyond the psychiatric.
Make notes of all the changes you have noticed over the past year and discuss them with his doctor, and do this right away. I am going to follow up with you in a week to make sure you do, so get on that. The last thing you need is me tailgating your life from Cyberspace.
7. Buy more life insurance for your husband and liability insurance as well. If you can’t get this situation resolved, at least you can try to profit from it if he dies and protect your assets if he injures or takes someone else with him into the great beyond of nothingness.
Hey girl, I’m just being practical. Don’t hate the messenger.
Look, I’ve got a touch of this issue as well, and I notice it gets WAY worse when I am feeling anxious, depressed or angry. I think given the fact your husband’s driving “style” is a new development in his life, it is fixable.
Me? It may be too late for me. I’ve been flipping people off through my sunroof since I was 16. My father taught me many valuable life lessons and communicating with other drivers via sign language was one of them.
A few weeks ago, I was tailgated so closely that I slowly brought my car to a stop, at which point the driver behind me rear-ended my car. And then they sped away, so I couldn’t even enjoy the satisfaction of filing a bogus neck injury lawsuit against them. **sigh**
I’ll tell you what – let your husband know if he works on this issue, so will I. I certainly can’t throw my life away now when I am on the cusp of fame and fortune…that would simply make too many people too damn happy. I will embrace and protect my safety for many reasons, but mainly to annoy my detractors. This is a win/win for me!