Sep 13, 2008

How Emotions Affect Driving

Every time we roll out on the road, we encounter different situations and each time we have different moods, behind the wheels, to drive our way out.

Things like drinking and mobile phone have an adverse affect on your driving. But little consideration is given to other factors that can be even more distracting. Fatigue, stress, and our emotions have a serious effect on driving, causing serious impairments that we may not even be aware of.

If you are worried, upset, frightened, depressed, or even happily excited, your driving skills can be as negatively impacted as they would be if you were engaged in an intense phone call or after having consumed several alcoholic drinks.

Many times we do have to drive after facing an emergency, for example, after being notified of the sudden illness or death of a loved one; or even after a confrontation with another person, such as a particularly upsetting incident at work.

If you find that you must drive after your emotions have surfaced, here are a few things you can do to manage the emotion and make your driving safer for yourself and others on the road:

  • If you are angry or upset or otherwise annoyed, pull over or off of the road. Take a few moments - close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and relax. If the emotion is particularly strong, take a short walk, or go get something to drink (non-alcoholic, of course); just stay off of the road until you have time to settle down.
  • If you find yourself drifting into worry, depression, or if you are thinking too closely about something that has happened, make a concerted effort to put it out of your mind until you stop the car. Some people find that making a hand gesture of dismissal to themselves helps, as does the distraction of music. Use the energy to instead focus on your driving, and give yourself time to sort out the troubling issue when you do not have to drive.
  • If it is a matter of feeling rushed, hurried or just generally impatient, give yourself a bit of extra time before you start out. Allowing for extra time means you won't be as likely to start speeding. Also, remember to always, no matter how rushed you are, stop at railroad crossings and NEVER drive around the gates or try to beat an oncoming train.

A serious distraction. Research has proven that human beings in the grip of negative (and sometimes positive) emotions have exhibited a distraction level even more serious than those experienced by cell phone users. Such emotions can cause otherwise excellent drivers to:

  • Experience dimmed or otherwise impaired observation and reaction times.
  • Fail to recognize situations, such as an abrupt slowing of traffic or debris in the road.
  • Get to the point that they are unable to predict or to determine what the other drivers around us are doing.
  • Make risky maneuvers and risky changes, such as cutting across several lanes of traffic to take an off-ramp, suddenly change lanes, or even to drive on the freeway shoulder.
  • Lose the ability to perform driving skills that require precise timing or other subtle skills.
  • Make a driver feel as though he or she is detached from the other drivers, vehicles, and conditions on the road

Dealing with road rage. It's become all too common these days. Road rage has been responsible for many accidents and even bodily injury, mainly due to an overreaction and personalization of driving situations. If something happens to make you believe that you could become the victim of another driver's rage, here are a few things you can do to protect yourself:

  • Remain in your car, and if approached on foot, roll up the windows and lock the doors.
  • Even if you're just talking with a passenger, avoid making gestures that another driver could interpret as hostile, rude, or otherwise negative.
  • If you accidentally do something that annoys or upsets another driver, make overly-exaggerated expressions of regret, hold hand in a prayer gesture, mouth the word "sorry," make a silly grimace―anything that will send the message that you acknowledge an error. This works very well to diffuse a situation.

A few things you can do to prevent road rage. Driving an automobile has become increasingly personalized, with many drivers feeling that the actions of other drivers are directed at them personally, rather than taking another's driving errors in stride. It has been found that about 85% of the drivers who were surveyed said that the flash of anger and personalization brought on could be defused and settled if the offending driver had simply acknowledged the error with a gesture of apology.

Keep your eye, mind, and thoughts on the road. Keeping emotions in control makes a huge difference in driving skills. But there are other things many drivers do that take their attention away from driving - refrain from eating, reading, map consulting, Internet surfing, applying makeup, or holding our pets while you are driving.

If you use a cell phone and find that you must talk, use a hands-free device while you are driving and keep the calls short and at an absolute minimum.

As long as you are moving, your attention should be on the road and traffic at all times―not diluted by distractions or strong emotions.


  1. Don't drive when you dont know how to drive negative things out...stay cool while driving!


  2. The major problem we are facing that from the immature drivers. roads are already congested and in between the amature drivers making lots of trouble. Most of these people getting license through bribing and major of them going to hell at the earliest.


  3. Sherin has raised an important point of illegal license issue, by bribing. Such drivers are really a threat for others' life, on the road. Corruption needs to be curbed to avoid accidents.

  4. It is important to be in a state of mind that will allow you to focus especially when driving.

    Too many lives are at stake when one is being careless on the road.

    Thank you for the great post!

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