Studies show the emotional state of a driver can impact safety on the road

25 January 2018 Themba Baloyi, Discovery
Themba Baloyi, Executive Director at Discovery Insure.

Themba Baloyi, Executive Director at Discovery Insure.

Texting while driving, and drinking and driving are known causes of severe road accidents and road deaths. Extreme emotions while driving can be equally as dangerous.

Road rage and anger-related incidents of violence on our roads are a sad reality. While these are extreme cases, driving when you are experiencing any form of emotional high or low can have a similar effect as driving when fatigued.

“Dealing with overwhelming emotions while driving, can be even more distracting than navigating a cellphone while driving – and these numbers are alarming. Discovery Insure has been able to measure distracted driving with their telematics technology. Findings include that the worst 10% of distracted drivers are 2.3 times more likely to be in an accident compared with the average driver,” said Themba Baloyi, Discovery Insure’s Executive Director.

Considering that intense emotions can negatively affect your ability to perform tasks and influence your thoughts, attitude and problem-solving skills, all of which are critical to driving well, it may be good to first gain your focus before making your trip.

How intense emotions can affect driving ability

Feeling worried, upset, anxious, depressed or even excited, can all meddle with your ability to spot or predict potential risks in traffic that you might have noticed if you were otherwise calm and not preoccupied. When you are under immense stress, it is possible to make riskier driving decisions, have tunnel vision and slower reaction times. These all make it less likely to notice and respond to things happening outside of the car and it can take a mere second to miss something that could lead to an accident.

Being alert and fully present are important to driving well. Knowing that driving safety is also influenced by emotions and finding techniques to keep your focus while driving can make all the difference.

Tips to avoid intense emotions from affecting your driving safety

• Making enough time for the trip by leaving earlier to consider traffic and hold-ups is recommended.
• Phone Message notifications can cause more anxiety and it is a good practice to always drive with message notifications switched off.
• To stay calm you can take deep, slow breaths and counting for a few seconds as you inhale and exhale.
• It is important not to dwell on the actions other drivers take that arouse your anger as it will only make things worse. Focusing on staying safe is wise.
• Being courteous is noble and safer. Cutting in, erratic lane changes and speeding will, at best, save you a few seconds but could land you and others in hospital or jail.
• It is better to pull over at a safe location when you are overwhelmed by emotions such as anger or grief. Turn the radio on to soothing music or off if that helps. If needed, get out of the car, go for a short walk or get yourself a drink of water. Once you're back behind the wheel, try to focus on the road to hold any disturbing emotions at bay until your journey is over.

“Staying calm can prevent road rage and will ensure everyone gets to their destinations safely. Lowering overall stress levels has a positive effect on many aspects of life, including coping with extreme emotions. By getting more sleep, exercising, and adopting relaxation techniques, people’s emotional and mental health improve. The fact is, finding ways to stay calm and patient is not just good for your overall wellbeing, but also for safety on the road,” concluded Baloyi.

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