As a woman, you recognise that your mood can affect your daily life, from how you interpret what people say, to the kinds of foods you crave, and how you perform at work. But did you know that the risk of crashing your vehicle increases tenfold when you drive while overly emotional?
Driving is dangerous and risky despite how experienced we are at it – being a safe driver requires dutiful concentration and a level head.
The dangers of emotional driving
Emotional driving impairs our driving skills and puts us at greater risk of a car crash. Strong emotions greatly influence our cognitive processes and decision-making abilities almost as much as drugs and alcohol.
Overwhelming emotions while driving lead to serious distraction and can cause you to make life-threatening mistakes that you would normally never do, for example:
- Speeding through a construction site or school zone
- Side-swiping or rear-ending another vehicle
- Missing a stop sign
- Driving through a red light
- Drifting off the road or into another lane
- Forgetting to use your mirrors in a parking lot and backing into another car
- Not noticing a pedestrian in time
Only feeling a little emotional? Poor driving experiences, like being cut off by another driver can trigger more intense emotions. This sudden mood change could prompt you to react in an abnormal or excessive fashion.
5 common emotions that affect your driving capability
Road rage is not the only thing people feel while driving that impairs their driving capabilities. Here are five common emotions that reveal how mood affects driving behaviour:
Everyone knows the dangers of getting behind the wheel while tired. Your reaction times decrease and you’re much less aware of your surroundings.
Feeling exhausted can also put you in a bad mood and make you respond with impatience or frustration. That contributes to risky decision-making and ignoring common traffic rules.
When you feel afraid, sometimes you behave overcautiously. Driving too slowly or reservedly can be as dangerous as driving too aggressively.
Women today live hectic lives and often get pulled in many directions at once. Stress influences your driving behaviour – instead of focusing on the road, anxiety takes over, impacting your reaction time and making you drive with less care and concern for other road users.
This is one of the most common emotions associated with distracted driving. Road rage is all too common on our roads. This heightened anger leads to even poorer decision-making and increased aggression. Aggressive driving causes 66% of all traffic deaths with 1/3 of all car crashes involving road rage specifically.
Positive emotions can affect driving behaviour just as much as negative emotions.
Imagine you’re heading to the grand opening of your new business venture or your best friend’s baby shower and you’re extremely excited. This emotion can lead to the likelihood that you’ll go over the speed limit or run a traffic light to get there faster.
Even feelings of love and happiness can affect your driving by drifting you off into fantasy and taking your attention off from your environment and other road users.
Tips for controlling your emotions while driving
Don’t let emotions or a temporary mood take over the wheel, this only puts you and others in harm’s way. Learn how to recognise and self-regulate your emotions to help you drive safely, no matter what you’re feeling.
Take a Deep Breath
It sounds like a cliché but it works. If you feel a strong emotion coming on, try taking slow, deep breaths and counting to 10. You’ll see how quickly you’ll begin to relax if you focus on your breath.
Reframe your thoughts
Our emotions often originate from a specific thought that creates a feeling. If you start to think extremely negative (or even positive) thoughts that affect your emotions – think about something else. You can completely change the subject in your mind. For example, instead of focusing on the mistake you made at work, you can think about a success from the past or an exciting future event.
Choose your audio
Research proves music works to relieve mental stress, elevate your mood, and improve your quality of life. The next time you start to feel overwhelmed by emotion while driving, try turning on calming music to help soothe your stress.
Alternatively, listening to the news or talk radio could agitate or upset you while you run errands or commute to work. Switching to a light audiobook or a calming playlist instead will help put you in a better mood.
Factor in delays
Do you feel uncontrollably frustrated or angry when you get stuck in traffic or face an unexpected delay?
Giving yourself a little cushion of time will save you a lot of stress and is good practice in case of unexpected delays anyway.
On your regular drive to work, try beating the morning rush by getting to work early and leaving in time to miss the afternoon traffic.
Find a good sleep schedule
When you feel rested, it’s much easier to stay alert while driving. Sleep also increases your ability to deal with being in a bad mood and sudden strong emotions. This means you’re less likely to take risks or react slowly while driving.
Stop and wait it out
Not sure that you can do anything to change how you feel at that moment?
It’s difficult when you’re emotional to stay level headed and to think clearly, but driving off in a negative state is never a good thing. Don’t turn the ignition until you can bring yourself to calm down (remember the breathing trick).
If you’re driving and in an emotional state, find a safe place to pull over, gather your thoughts, and calm down (remember the breathing trick!)
Moods and emotions play an important role in how humanity perceives and interacts with the world. Paying attention to and learning how to regulate feelings and emotions makes for a better experience overall.
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