There are several factors that can cause driver stress; You’re arguing with a stranger over a parking space. Or you’re stuck in stop/start traffic on the way to a friend’s wedding… Not forgetting being tailgated…
Do your palms get sweaty and your heart starts pounding when you sit behind the wheel? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Driving on Britain’s congested roads when you’re feeling stressed is a recipe for disaster. According to the road safety charity Brake and the insurer Direct Line*, about 70% of drivers have admitted losing their concentration at the wheel because they’re feeling burnt out or wound up or, worse still, have lost their rag.
For years now, Britain has been ranked the worst country in the world for road rage, with four in five** motorists having lost their temper while driving. Traffic jams, tailgating and bad driving are just some of the things which can make people see red at the wheel. Getting into the car in a bad mood can make you more susceptible to stress on the road as well.
Brake says that an uncomfortable seating position, tiredness and hunger can all contribute to a change in mood and loss of concentration.
Here are our top tips that will help your de-stress next time you’re ready to blow your top!
Plan Plan Plan
There’s nothing like being in a rush to bring on a bout of road rage, so always give yourself plenty of time and anticipate that you might hit back traffic. The pressure of time ticking by never does any favours for your mood, so check the traffic before you travel and aim to give yourself double the time to reach your destination. It’s also worth checking out your route before you set off and understanding what your alternatives are should a road ahead be closed.
Keep Your Car Full of Fuel (or Electric!) and in Good Condition
If you’re sat in a traffic jam with the fuel light blinking at you from the dashboard, this is going to do nothing to help your nerves, and you’ll remain stressed all the way to the fuel station. Try to top your car up before you’re running on empty to avoid the stress of having to find a fuel station at a minute’s notice. It’s also a good idea to keep your car in a good condition, ensuring all fluids are topped up regularly so you aren’t suddenly faced with a dashboard warning light or a very dirty windscreen — both of which could send your stress levels through the roof.
Keep Snacks Nearby
Raise your hand if you get cranky when hungry. It’s ok, it happens to the best of us. Being stuck in a car with an empty belly creates the perfect storm for irritable and stressful behaviour. Instead of suffering through stomach grumbles, keep non-perishable or long-shelf-life snacks, like energy bars or nuts, in the car for emergency situations (and don’t be afraid to dip into the stash yourself!).
Give Bad Drivers the Benefit of the Doubt
Bad driving can be a bitter pill to swallow, especially if someone has just cut you up, pulled out in front of you or tried to squeeze into a gap in traffic that’s just not there. But, while it can be tempting to give these offenders a quick blast of your horn, it’s better to give them the benefit of the doubt and accept that it was probably just an accident. Show people a little courtesy in moments like this by giving them the space they need to rectify their mistake, and they’ll likely thank you with a quick wave or flash of their hazards, diffusing a potentially angering situation.
Remember That Driving Isn’t a Competition
Karma, fate or ‘what goes around comes around’ — call it what you will, but there’s a lot to be said for showing other road users the same courtesy you expect from them. By making a conscious effort to be a considerate driver and not go into situations aggressively, you’ll not only take the moral high ground, but keep your stress levels to a minimum. Take a deep breath rather than brandishing an angry gesture or using your horn. Everyone on the road has somewhere to be, and by understanding that, you’ll be able to relax and stay calm at the wheel.
*Brake and the insurer Direct Line www.brake.org.uk/info-and-resources/facts-advice-research/driver-survey-reports