Driving anxieties and top six driving stressors

Our drivers suffered from emotional stress at least 40% of the time

Life is full of stresses, small and large, and dealing with driving anxiety and stressful driving situations is something we could all do without.

Through our recent study into the leading causes of stress on the road, we’ve identified six key stressors that caused our drivers feelings of anxiety.

Let’s take a look at the top six driving stressors our drivers encountered in the series of videos below. Plus, with the help of the UK’s leading road safety charity, IAM RoadSmart, let’s explore how we can safely deal with each of these stressful circumstances:



Top six driving stressors

  1. Traffic and congestion
  2. Road awareness
  3. Inconsiderate drivers
  4. Sudden dangers
  5. Navigation issues
  6. Cyclists and other road users


1. Traffic and congestion

Driving in heavy traffic can be a stressful experience, especially when you don’t know what’s causing the hold-up.

If you know you’re going to be travelling through a congested area, make sure you give yourself enough time to get to where you’re going. Leave the house a little earlier, and consider some alternative routes you could take if you get stuck.

It’s easy to say, but try not to stress out about situations that are out of your control!



2. Road awareness

We can often be on autopilot while driving, however road awareness is key to driving well.

Observing and anticipating are two skills we can use to take the stress out of driving – take your time, and don’t drive too close to the car in front. By leaving enough space, you’ve got more time to react if something happens.

Road awareness is obviously easier on roads we’re familiar with, but don’t become complacent about your regular routes – try to review them from time to time.



3. Inconsiderate drivers

We all know that the actions of other drivers can sometimes surprise us, and seem inconsiderate.

If a driver suddenly changes lanes or does something that’s badly planned, selfish or just downright dangerous, try to stop and consider the person behind the wheel.

We all have things going on in our lives, and we should try to be understanding of other people’s mistakes. After all – we all make them!

Witnessing reckless driving brings out the beast in all of us – just try not to get too emotionally invested.

And if we’re the one who’s made a mistake on the road, remember that a simple apology goes a long way in diffusing a stressful situation.



4. Sudden dangers on the road

‘Sudden’ isn’t really a word that should be associated with driving!

When we’re driving on autopilot, thinking about work or bills, we’re less aware of what’s going on around us

Try to stay alert: by anticipating things happening on the road, we’re better equipped to deal with any dangerous situations that might arise.

Watch out for the clues, meaning you won’t be surprised by any sudden events that might occur.



5. Navigation issues

Even with sat nav, we can still take the wrong turn from time to time! Having to turn back or re-route can be annoying, but it shouldn’t really stress us out.

If you find yourself really lost, perhaps due to confusing road markings or your view being obscured by heavy traffic, find a safe place to stop and assess your position.

An acronym may help here: OAP, which stands for Observations, Anticipation and Planning. Knowing where you are and where you want to go are important elements of driving.

Just try not to panic if you find yourself going the wrong way – it happens to the best of us!



6. Cyclists and other road users

As we know, other drivers can cause us stress, as well as other road users, such as cyclists and pedestrians.

Remember that we can only get annoyed if we allow ourselves to be – it all comes back to certain things being out of our control, and reacting to stressful situations in the best way we can.

Why should we allow the behaviour of others define our journey? In most cases, annoyances on the road are minor, so the best thing you can do is expect a level of imperfection from your fellow road users, and try to rise above any feelings of anger you may have.




So, how can we combat driving anxiety?

  • Leave plenty of time for the journey: Aim to arrive with minutes to spare on any trip. Why rush?
  • Observe and anticipate: Be aware of your proximity to other vehicles, and leave yourself enough space to react.
  • Keep your cool: We all make mistakes, so try not to get too het up about other drivers’ behaviour.
  • Stay alert: Look out for any clues that might lead to an incident on the road – that way, you won’t be surprised by anything.
  • Be flexible: We all go the wrong way sometimes, so try to keep a level head if you do. Simply find a safe place to turn around or renavigate.
  • Don’t let others define your journey: If you expect less from other road users, you’re less likely to be disappointed or surprised!
Fieldwork carried out by Mindlab on behalf of Swinton Group in July 2018

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