Just under a third of British drivers regularly feel stressed behind the wheel, with tailgating being the biggest cause of road rage, according to our recent survey*.
Over half of motorists also said that their stress levels were increased by questionable decisions made by other road users, while a third admitted that passing cyclists
caused them to worry.
So what can we do to diminish driving stress?
To help keep the nation’s drivers safe on the road and beat driving stress, we’ve teamed up with the UK’s leading road safety charity, IAM RoadSmart and Gethin Jones to create a series of videos and guides that will help you feel
calmer on the road and beat driving stress.
Are we becoming a nation of chronically-stressed drivers?
To help our customers feel confident when driving, we wanted to find out what factors cause drivers to feel stressed on UK roads. We carried out a survey of 2000 people to identify the top triggers of driving stress. Our survey revealed six key causes of stress:
|Trigger for stress||% of drivers who cite this as stressful|
|1. Being tailgated (i.e. another driver being very close behind me)||53%|
|2. Poor driving decisions by other drivers (e.g. speeding)||52%|
|3. Bad road surfaces (e.g. potholes)||47%|
|4. Winding lanes with blind bends (i.e. bends I cannot easily see around)||37%|
|5. Bad weather (e.g. heavy rain etc.)||35%|
|6. Passing cyclists on the road||33%|
We decided to delve a little deeper into what’s causing stress on the nation’s roads, and carried out an analysis** of 60 drives in major UK cities, including London and Manchester.
We tracked the heart rates and EDA (electrodermal activity) of our drivers to identify if these increased when stressful events occurred, and discovered that everyday annoyances such as cars pulling out unexpectedly, or stopping abruptly, contributed to our drivers feeling stressed.
What is EDA?
Also known as skin conductance, EDA is sweat gland activity on the skin. By placing electrodes on our participants’ fingers, we could measure the extent to which they conducted electricity: As sweat increased due to feeling stressed, so did conductivity, therefore resulting in a higher EDA value.
In fact, our drivers were stressed out for half of each journey made, experiencing a surprising six stressful events per minute.
We also examined each driver’s emotional responses to real-life driving scenarios, and discovered that our participants suffered from emotional stress at least 40% of the time.
And with workers in the UK spending an average of 27 working days commuting each year, up to 15 of these can be spent feeling stressed if we travel by car. Unsurprisingly, this can have a negative impact on our overall health.
“When we feel stressed, our body releases hormones like adrenaline in response to both physical and mental demands. But too much stress too often can promote the overproduction of other hormones like cortisol, which can contribute to the development of a range of physical and mental health conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, anxiety and depression.
“Too much stress, in particular chronic stress, can also impair our judgement by making us anxious and irritable, and so contribute to poor decision-making whilst driving.”
*Survey carried out by YouGov Plc on behalf of Swinton Group in May 2018
**Fieldwork carried out by Mindlab on behalf of Swinton Group in July 2018