Although it isn’t something you can see, hear, or touch, driving under the influence of strong emotions is a form of distracted driving. Negative emotions such as anger and sadness are especially distracting. They direct thoughts away from driving to the matter that upsets you. Anger also increases aggressive driving and reduces your tolerance of the driving mistakes of other motorists. This increases the likelihood of giving in to road rage. In fact, recent research shows that negative emotions increase your risk of a car crash tenfold.
Strong emotion causes drivers to make poor judgment calls. It causes people to revert to “autopilot driving” in which the task of driving is relegated to reflex action, while the thinking mind is occupied elsewhere. This means the driver fails to anticipate the dangers of red flags such as a child’s ball bouncing across the street. The driver doesn’t anticipate the actions of other motorists, which makes defensive driving impossible.
Preventing emotional distraction first requires mindfulness or self-awareness of how your emotions are affecting you. You must then bring it under control. If you can’t shake it off, find a safe place to pull over. Go for a walk or do deep breathing exercises where you inhale to the count of five and then exhale while counting to five. Think of nothing except your breathing. Don’t start driving until the emotions have subsided.
Strong emotions do more than compel your thoughts away from your driving. They reduce your reaction times and degrade your motor skills. This is why psychological advantage is so important when athletes compete against each other. Strong emotions effectively negate your driving skills and years of experience.
When you aren’t driving, give the emotional issues of your life the attention they deserve and work to solve them. It’s well-known that prolonged emotional stress shortens lives through increased risk of stroke and heart disease. However, a greater threat to your life is the effect of this stress on your driving.
If a negligent or aggressive driver injured you in a crash, don’t hesitate to seek legal advice from the experienced lawyers at Hogan Injury. Contact us for a free consultation.