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Community & Culture

The Calmedy Commute

Can comedy combat road rage? Onlia did an experiment to find out. Introducing, the Calmedy Commute.

by Team Onlia
Road rage is proven to be one of the most dangerous driver behaviours. When you’re angry or stressed, your adrenaline, heart rate, cortisol and DOPAC levels increase, which can dangerously impact behaviour. In fact, driving when angry makes you 10X more likely to crash.

This rage can manifest in different ways, from yelling and giving hand gestures to intentional tailgating and honking, it’s something we all dread but can’t seem to completely avoid. Inconsiderate drivers, congestion, year-round construction, daily stresses of life and traffic delays can make drivers lose themselves, causing situations that can quickly spiral out of control. 

Combating Road Rage With Laughter

At Onlia, we are on a mission to make Canada’s roads and communities safer. Part of that mission includes challenging the status quo on how we look at road safety. So, we wanted to test if laughter can combat the effects of road rage through a real-world, interactive and data-driven experiment with influencers and comedians from Toronto.

The Hypothesis

Let’s face it, when you’re laughing, you can’t stay angry! It's proven that when you counter stress with humour, there is a 79 per cent decrease in stress hormones and an 87 per cent increase in endorphins. Using these insights, we developed a multi-layered experiment dubbed the “Calmedy Commute.” We brought together local comedians, drivers, facial recognition software and biometric tracking to test if comedy can positively impact a commuter’s emotional state during real-world driving situations.


We engaged four different GTA commuters in this driving experiment — all self-declared road ragers. Based in different areas around the greater Toronto area from Vaughan to Scarborough and the downtown core, our drivers’ patience was truly put to the test. Travelling through heavy construction, dealing with slow and inconsiderate drivers and constant congestion, our drivers experienced it all. For five days, our drivers participated in our Calmedy Commute experiment, the first day acting as a baseline with no “calmedy” during their commute and the next four with comedy segments playing in their vehicles.

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Knowing we wanted to bring comedy into the mix, we tapped into Toronto’s comedy community to develop hour-long podcasts for our drivers to enjoy. The content created focused on commuting and the everyday road issues we all experience. 


In order to test if comedy had an impact on road rage from a data perspective, each of our drivers wore a biometric wristband to monitor physiological signals, including: heart rate, skin conductivity and activity. A dual-channel dash camera was also installed in each vehicle to record our driver’s reactions and driving conditions. This video was then analyzed through facial recognition software which monitored for six basic emotions and one neutral state: happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, fear and disgust. The Onlia Insurance Safe Driving App was also used during each commute, which scored our drivers on a 100-point scale for acceleration, braking, cornering and speed.

The results

By bringing all of these elements together, we were able to test if comedy positively impacts our driver’s behaviours. After a week-long commute testing the impact of comedy on our drivers’ emotional states, the use of comedy during stressful road situations had a calming effect. Based on facial recognition analysis, biometric data the Onlia Insurance App and anecdotal stories from the drivers, comedy helped them calm down during road rage moments. One influencer even stated, “Laughter is the key… you’re so into the [comedy] that you forget that you’re in traffic.” 

See below for key takeaways from this experiment:

  • Maximum speed went down by more than 5k m/hr*
  • Drivers were 10% less likely to accelerate aggressively*
  • Distracted driving was down an incredible 66%*

*Data collected from the Onlia Insurance Safe Driving App.

Road rage can be a difficult to overcome, but there are fun and innovative ways to address this negative reaction. If you know you are driving through a heavy construction zone or will be in rush hour traffic, plan ahead and listen to some comedy. We can all do our part to make our commute safer, so why not have some laughs along the way. 

Check out the full Calmedy Commute video here. Join our safety movement by following along on social media: @OnliaCA, #OnliaCA and #CalmedyCommute.

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