Are your emotions stopping you from driving safely?
Emotions are part of our daily life, from joy to despair and exhilaration to stress. These emotions can affect every aspect of our lives, especially the most complicated tasks we do - like driving. Here Katy Latta, who is currently working alongside Aviva, looks at the impact our emotions can have on the road.
Aviva’s ‘Safe Driving’ survey, in conjunction with The Telegraph, revealed that only just 50% of people recognised human error as a common cause of crashes on the road. Driver error can be caused by a whole range of distractions both inside and outside of the car but, according to the Thames Valley Police, “95% of all road crashes are due to human error”.
Making mistakes when you’re behind the wheel can largely be blamed on distracting behaviours or habits – such as using a hands free- set, listening to loud music or trying to keep an eye on children in the back. The way you feel mentally seems to have been overlooked, with less than one in ten of people surveyed* considering their emotional state as having a potentially negative effect on their driving ability.
9 out of 10 people surveyed thought that anger has the worst effect on your ability to drive safely. Mike Fisher, author of ‘Beating Anger’, says that the real danger of being angry behind the wheel is “being hyper armoured or adrenalised” which means we’re easily distracted from the present. This often means that when we’re angry “we are also looking for further mistakes by other drivers” shifting focus from driving safely and even causing you to lose concentration altogether.
Make sure you are aware of traffic updates and road works ahead of journeys to prepare yourself for potential anger inducing situations.
Aviva’s survey uncovered that 1 out 10 regularly feel anxious or fearful whilst driving, however, only 4% of all respondents thought that it would have the most negative effect on their driving. Laura Whitehurst at Anxiety UK says that anxiety can cause “rapid heartbeat, palpitations, excess sweating, shaking, ‘jelly legs’, headaches, butterflies in your stomach and many other physical symptoms.” Whilst these symptoms are very undesirable whilst trying to concentrate, severe cases of anxiety can lead to panic attacks which are extremely dangerous when behind the wheel. If you’re starting to feel anxious whilst you drive, Whitehurst recommends avoiding caffeine and sugar before your journey. If you’re on a long trip, or start to feel anxious, take a break to do some light exercise and start burning off adrenaline and stress hormones.
Over a quarter of respondents admitted to often feeling stressed whilst driving. Neil Shah, director of The Stress Management Society, uncovers that an intense emotion such as stress can ‘diminish brain function”. This can cause our driving to become more “aggressive and reactive which means we’re more likely to drive faster, make mistakes and therefore cause accidents.”
Take time to de-stress before and during your drive by taking long, deep breaths and getting oxygen circulating your body – a proven method of calming yourself down.
Often overlooked, when it comes to distracting driver emotions, are positive feelings such as happiness or excitement. It’s important to consider all external factors that may cause our minds to drift whilst we’re trying to concentrate on the roads.
Wherever you are, whoever you are, your emotions can affect your reactions in many different ways. When behind the wheel the consequences of letting your feelings get the better of you could have really serious consequences. Take some time to be aware of what triggers emotions that could affect your driving and maybe check out some techniques from experts on how to control them.
* An exclusive survey of 1,094 British drivers conducted online by YouGov for Aviva in conjunction with the Telegraph on 7-9 December 2015 – Further data to be found in Aviva’s Safe Driving hub