How to beat driver stress

When was the last time you felt stressed when you were driving? Think about it. Was it because you were angry? Perhaps you’d had an argument with someone before you set off, or you’d received some news that had made you cross. Can you remember whether this affected the way you behaved at the wheel? Did you still have some negative thoughts whirring round your mind the next time you went out?

Driven to rage

If something did happen before you set out or while you were on the road, perhaps you didn’t connect your state of mind to your ability to focus on your driving. The truth is that driving is a complex, demanding task that needs your full attention. Having angry thoughts replaying through your mind interferes with your ability to concentrate on driving. This means you’re less likely to spot hazards and it can also slow your reaction times. Research has shown that angry drivers are more likely to switch lanes, tailgate and ride through red lights*.

The calm within

So, if “driving angry” increases your chances of getting into danger, what can be done about it? Well, the good news is that there are plenty of excellent strategies that you can use to keep cool and stay safe:

  • Ask yourself if going out in your car is really necessary. If your thoughts are elsewhere or you’re feeling angry, stressed or tired, it’s best that you leave the keys on the hook
  • If you really must drive, then try and clear your mind before you start the car. Take deep breaths and tell yourself that concentrating on your driving has to come first
  •  If another driver does something that makes you angry, rationalise it rather than react to it. Accept that there are many factors that influence the way people drive and, whatever’s happened, it’s unlikely to be personal to you
  • Choose relaxation. It doesn’t matter how frustrated you get, it won’t get you to your destination any quicker. Take it easy and focus on the road, not on your feelings of frustration.

Well there you are; we’re nearly at the end and I’ve managed not to say “chillax”…. Oops, my bad.

Managing your mood is just one important part of keeping yourself safe on the road. For more essential tips and advice, check out The Official DVSA Guide to Better Driving

You can also read about managing your nerves (a different kind of ‘stressed out’) in one of our earlier blog posts ‘Don't panic!

* [4] Anger on the road, American Psychological Association, 2005