Psychological Factors in Driving
In 2018, over 77 percent of Americans drive alone to work every day. Americans spend 175 billion hours in transit which averages out to 100 minutes per day for each individual. With the huge amount of time spent driving, traffic accidents are common. You must be able to develop good defensive driving skills to deal with stress and different traffic situations. Examples of good driving skills are maintaining proper following distance, yielding the right-of-way to others, scanning ahead for hazards, activating your turn signals before turning or changing lanes, using your seat belts and checking your blind spots.
Driving or being stuck in traffic can be stressful for drivers. The longer you drive, the more stress you have and this leads you to do things you normally wouldn’t do. The typical causes of stress include:
- Being stuck in traffic or start-stop driving associated with congestion.
- Being caught in traffic flow where all the driver can do is join in.
- Perceived over-regulation involving traffic signs, road works and speed restrictions on roads that appear open and largely free of traffic.
- Inpatient or aggressive driving by other road users.
- Unpredictable events resulting in increased danger.
- Perceiving that the concentration of other drivers is being affected by equipment in their car.
- Lack of signaling.
- Jumping lights.
- Being the victim of abuse by other road users.
- Being pressured to drive faster by vehicles following.
- Drivers forgetting to put on lights, or lights incorrectly set.
- Being forced to brake hard for various reasons.
- Inconsiderate parking.
Here are some effective ways to reduce driving stress:
- Always plan for your trip and allow extra time for commutes to work, play relaxing music and accept the fact that there are elements out of your control.
- To keep your mind alert you should exercise regularly, maintain a good diet, have no alcohol while driving and be well rested.
- Remember that driving is not a competition. By making a conscious effort to be a considerate driver and not go into situations aggressively, you will not only take the moral high ground but keep your stress levels to a minimum.
- Take a break when needed. When you feel stressed, even just a simple five-minute leg stretch will be enough to ease tension and clear your head.
- Keep your distance from aggressive drivers, and allow them to pass without losing your cool. If a fellow motorist becomes seriously threatening, drive to a police station or crowded public place.
- Don’t entertain negativity and anger. Getting wound up over others’ actions may have a long-term negative effect on your health. You might feel protected in your vehicle but frustration can impair your judgment and lead to rash decisions, and verbal and physical conflict.
Are you an aggressive driver?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) developed a test that determines whether you are an Aggressive Driver or a Smooth Operator. Put yes or no in each question and add up your score at the end to determine if you’re an aggressive driver.
See if you have developed aggressive driving habits that could threaten your safety, the safety of your passengers, and the safety of others on the road.
____ Do you pass other vehicles on the left?
____ Do you yield to faster traffic by moving to the right?
____ Do you keep to the right as much as possible on narrow streets or at intersections?
____ Do you stay a safe distance behind other vehicles, bicycles or motorcycles?
____ Do you make sure there is enough room when cutting in after passing vehicles?
____ Do you yield to pedestrians?
____ Do you come to a complete stop at stop signs, before turning right on red, and at red lights?
____ Do you speed to make it through a yellow light?
____ Do you follow the rules at a four-way stop?
____ Do you drive below-posted speed limits when weather conditions are bad?
____ Do you drive at lower speeds in construction zones?
____ Do you drive the speed limit in general?
____ Do you use your turn signals for turns and lane changes?
____ Do you use your horn sparingly?
____ Do you yield to emergency vehicles by pulling over to the right side of the road?
____ Do you avoid using inappropriate gestures or language when angry with other drivers?
____ Do you avoid challenging other drivers?
____ Do you avoid using your cell phone, reading, putting on makeup, etc.?
____ Do you avoid inflicting loud music on neighboring cars?
____ Do your passengers comment on your “good driving”?
Score yourself on the number of “no’s”
How you rate
1 – 2 Excellent driver
3 – 5 Good driver
6 – 9 Aggressive
10+ Very aggressive