How much does being angry actually affect your driving?

 ·10 Feb 2018

While texting and drinking while driving are known causes of severe road accidents and road deaths in the country, less is known about the effects of rage on South Africa’s roads.

However it’s not necessarily just anger that can affect your driving, as a new report by Discovery has found that driving when you are experiencing any form of emotional high or low can have a similar effect as driving when fatigued.

“Dealing with overwhelming emotions while driving, can be even more distracting than navigating a cellphone while driving – and these numbers are alarming,” said Themba Baloyi, executive director of Discovery Insure.

“Discovery Insure has been able to measure distracted driving with their telematics technology. Findings include that the worst 10% of distracted drivers are 2.3 times more likely to be in an accident compared with the average driver.

“Considering that intense emotions can negatively affect your ability to perform tasks and influence your thoughts, attitude and problem-solving skills, all of which are critical to driving well, it may be good to first gain your focus before making your trip,” he said.

How intense emotions can affect driving ability

Discovery found that feeling worried, upset, anxious, depressed or even excited, can all impact your ability to spot or predict potential risks in traffic that you might have noticed if you were otherwise calm and not preoccupied.

This is because when you are under immense stress, it is possible to make riskier driving decisions, have tunnel vision and slower reaction times.

“These all make it less likely to notice and respond to things happening outside of the car and it can take a mere second to miss something that could lead to an accident,” it said.

“Being alert and fully present are important to driving well. Knowing that driving safety is also influenced by emotions and finding techniques to keep your focus while driving can make all the difference.”

Discovery outlined the following the tips to help avoid intense emotions from affecting your driving safety:

  • Making enough time for the trip by leaving earlier to consider traffic and hold-ups is recommended.
  • Phone message notifications can cause more anxiety and it is a good practice to always drive with message notifications switched off.
  • To stay calm you can take deep, slow breaths and counting for a few seconds as you inhale and exhale.
  • It is important not to dwell on the actions other drivers take that arouse your anger as it will only make things worse. Focusing on staying safe is wise.
  • Being courteous is noble and safer. Cutting in, erratic lane changes and speeding will, at best, save you a few seconds but could land you and others in hospital or jail.
  • It is better to pull over at a safe location when you are overwhelmed by emotions such as anger or grief. Turn the radio on to soothing music or off if that helps. If needed, get out of the car, go for a short walk or get yourself a drink of water. Once you’re back behind the wheel, try to focus on the road to hold any disturbing emotions at bay until your journey is over.

Read: What you need to know about the SAPS’ new breathalyser

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