I’ve written a lot about distracted driving and the impact it can have on driving safety. Distracted driving refers to doing anything that takes your 100% attention away from the road. Grooming, texting, talking, eating and fiddling with the radio dial or CD player are all forms of distracted driving. However, there is one form of distracted driving that is not an actual action. It is driving while emotionally stressed.
Extreme emotions like anger anxiety, elation or grief increases the chance that the driver is not paying enough attention to the driving scene and other vehicles around him or her. Any strong emotion, negative or positive, can distract you and take your focus away from the road. Depending on your mood, you may take more driving risks than you normally would do when you are calm, relaxed, quiet and patient.
Driving in an emotionally charged state puts everyone on the road and in your car at risk. Because so many people don’t think of stressful driving as distracted driving, it is important to understand that it is as dangerous as texting and driving.
How to avoid stressful and emotional driving
Stopping a stressful emotion is not so easy. You can’t turn it on or off like a light switch. What is most important to know is to recognize that you are driving under duress. If you follow these tips, you may be able to avoid an accident while driving.
- If you are angry, stressed out, overly anxious or depressed, pull your car over and take several deep breaths to relax. If you are in a safe place to do so, get out of the car and take a short walk, or listen to some of your favorite music on the radio or your CD player. This should help you relieve some of your tension before you resume driving.
- One of the causes of car crashes is when you don’t leave yourself enough time to get someplace on time. Don’t put yourself in the position of being hurried or rushed. Leave in plenty of time to arrive at your destination safely and on time. This will help you avoid becoming anxious and impatient as you drive.
- If something very traumatic has just occurred, do not get behind the wheel of a car. Have someone else drive you to where you need to go, or even call a taxi. In such an emotional state, you will be a highly distracted and dangerous driver. If you can’t find anyone to drive you, give yourself a few minutes to calm down before you start to drive.
Remember, stress, fear, anxiety, and other emotional states of mind can and will impair your driving ability. Distraction the number one cause of car wrecks. The importance of full attention and alertness when you drive cannot be over-emphasized.
Please be safe out there.
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