You hopefully already realize that you should not drive when you’re intoxicated, distracted, or overly tired. But one thing you might not realize is that your mood can also impair your driving ability and make you more likely to be in an accident. In fact, if you frequently find yourself frustrated behind the wheel, you may be taking unnecessary risks and failing to fully focus on the road.
Unfortunately, frustration seems to be a common state of mind for many drivers in Florida (and around the country) today. Some of the most frequently-cited causes of on-the-road frustration include:
Slow drivers. One of the biggest frustrations for many drivers is being held up by people who are traveling well under the speed limit; in fact, 60% of respondents in a survey reported in The Telegraph said that they experience increased stress and irritability when confronted with a car that isn’t keeping up with traffic (the respondents were British, but it’s safe to say that many American drivers feel the same way). Drivers who feel that the car in front of them is moving too slowly are more likely to tailgate and attempt dangerous overtaking maneuvers.
Long commutes. The average commute time in the US is 25.4 minutes, but in many major metropolitan areas, this time jumps to closer to an hour. It’s not too surprising that drivers who spend that much time in their car may find themselves getting more easily frustrated.
Crowded areas. Metropolitan areas with lots of cars, trucks, motorcycles, bikes, and pedestrians often become congested, especially during rush hour. Drivers in these areas may also be frustrated due to less available parking and more frequent stops (in traffic and at intersections).
Texting and driving. A 2012 “drivers’ gripes” survey from Consumer Reports found that texting while driving was the behavior that most annoyed respondents, receiving an 8.9 on a 1-10 nuisance level. Texting while driving is now illegal in Florida, but unfortunately, some drivers still engage in this incredibly dangerous and frustrating behavior.
Drivers who fail to be courteous. It’s understandably annoying when other drivers tailgate, don’t wait their turn at a 4-way stop, cut you off while merging onto the highway, or engage in other uncourteous behaviors. Unfortunately, two cities in Florida—Orlando and Miami—rank in the top 10 for least courteous cities in the country.
Why Frustration Is Dangerous—and What You Can Do About It
Driving while in a negative emotional state can cause you to become distracted without you even realizing it. Some of the risks associated with frustrated driving include:
- Impaired observation and slower reaction times
- Becoming detached from other vehicles and drivers (i.e. starting to think of other drivers as obstacles and annoyances rather than real people), which may cause drivers to take risks that they wouldn’t have otherwise
- Making risky maneuvers to get ahead in traffic, such as cutting over several lanes at a time, not leaving enough space when changing lanes, or even driving on the shoulder
- Losing the ability to perform driving skills that require precise timing, such as merging onto the freeway or adjusting speed when the traffic ahead is slowing
While you might think that it’s impossible to just leave a bad mood at home, “I was frustrated” isn’t a valid excuse for getting into an accident. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce your likelihood of becoming frustrated on your drive.
Leave extra time for your commute. Sometimes the simplest solutions are also the best. If you often find yourself getting frustrated because you feel like you’re rushing to get to work or other commitments on time, factor in some extra time to the usual length of your commute as “cushioning” so that if something comes up and you are held up in traffic, you won’t be as anxious.
Find something that calms you down (but doesn’t take your attention off the road). Take deep breaths, count slowly to 10, or listen to calming music—do whatever will best help you relax without distracting you. If you get to the point where you’re so frustrated that you can’t concentrate on the task of driving, find somewhere safe to pull over until you calm down. It’s not worth taking the risk of being in a car accident just to get to your destination a few minutes faster.
Find a less stressful route. If one particular route always stresses you out and it’s feasible to take another route, do so. Even if one route is slightly longer, it may end up being faster because there is less traffic (or it may at least be more scenic and relaxing).
Don’t engage with an aggressive driver. If a driver honks, yells at you, or flips you off, don’t take the bait and retaliate. When you retaliate, you are more likely to cause the situation to escalate and make both you and the other driver more frustrated.
Be aware when you start to become frustrated while driving and do your best to change your mood. Remember, you can’t control traffic, but you can control your reaction to it.