Driving, especially on commutes, is not a relaxing activity. If commuting makes you feel stressed, it isn’t just you. Many people feel the same way. In fact, the stress of driving is one reason truck drivers, who spend their entire day on the road, have stress related health problems. However, stress doesn’t just affect your health, it affects your driving and increases your risk of getting into a car accident.
How Stress Affects Your Driving
When stress reaches a certain threshold, it triggers the adrenal glands to release cortisol. This hormone increases your blood sugar level, which provides the energy to either fight your way out of a dangerous situation or flee it. Unfortunately, none of these responses are appropriate or safe when driving. People who give in to their fight or flight impulses are the aggressive and the road rage drivers who endanger themselves and others on the road.
However, even if you maintain control over your actions, the effects of stress increase your risk of getting into a crash in other ways. First of all, it impairs your ability to think. You’re less able to predict traffic behavior or exercise sound judgment. It also distracts you from your driving because your focus is diverted away to the causes of the stress.
The areas of the brain that stress activates aren’t the ones critical for safe driving. This leaves you feeling somewhat detached from the traffic situation and reduces your powers of observation. It can also slow down your reaction time and ability to perform complex tasks that require precision. In short, stress hormones such as cortisol are a kind of drug that are released by the body and impair your driving.
How to Control Stress When Driving
- Allow extra commute time. There are many aspects of driving over which you have little direct control such as the speed of the cars in front of you and the many other forms of traffic delays. However, this doesn’t mean you’re powerless. You can easily deal with this by allowing more time than needed for your commute. If you arrive early, then it’s an opportunity to get a bite to eat and relax a bit before going to work.
- Find a different commute route. Take the less traveled route to work. You may have to drive some more, but you can start your commute sooner to arrive on time.
- Do your commute at a different time. Arrange different working hours that avoid rush-hour traffic. Traffic density is a big contributor to stressful driving.
- Use deep breathing exercises. This simple exercise produces instant relaxation: inhale slowly, hold, and then exhale slowly. Each of these three actions should last four seconds.
Injured in a car accident with an aggressive driver? Contact us at Hogan Injury to discuss your legal options.