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Don’t let driving stress get to you

Driving is a complex task that requires many decisions at various times. Experiments have shown that our decision-making processes short circuit when we’re in an aroused state, be that anger or another, heightened emotional condition. We certainly behave far less rationally when we’re angry.
To put it into context, a psychological experiment was conducted in which people were asked to judge how they would react under certain circumstances and then later they were put under stress and asked for a response to questions. The stress-inducing situation involved giving a short speech to an audience, which was enough to raise the blood pressure of most volunteers.
The result wawoman12-his interesting. When people were put under stress, they took longer to answer the questions. Many of us will have had that sort of experience. For example, if someone is driving through a strange town with unfamiliar roundabouts, traffic lights and so on, they may take longer to make a decision if they’re feeling under pressure to respond quickly near an exit or a turn.
If you’ve ever felt slightly annoyed at a driver who keeps going round a roundabout when you thought they were about to turn off, or perhaps they braked a little late for a turn off the main road, you may now have some sympathy with them. Feeling stressed, angry or emotional in any way can slow down the decision-making process and lead to erratic driving.
There are ways that individuals can help themselves to cope with driving through unfamiliar towns and cities. One way is simply to prepare thoroughly before leaving. Make yourself a ‘flight plan’ and mentally rehearse the route before you even set off. Perhaps drive a little more slowly too, to allow yourself an extra couple of seconds to make decisions.
If you’re familiar with the area, you can do others a favour by understanding that they might not know the roads as well as you. It sounds obvious but you can give yourself a better chance of avoiding an incident, while at the same time helping less familiar drivers, just by using planned, considerate driving methods. Keep your distance and resist the temptation to use the horn in anger; that will just make things worse.
That last point is worthy of note too. If you allow yourself to get angry, your decision-making will be slowed too. So, even if you are familiar with the area, your decision-making processes will slow and increase your chances of an incident. Many drivers will be familiar with the experience of having had a near miss and then, almost immediately, having another near miss. The first incident makes you angry and then you go on to make an error yourself as a result.
From a physiological point of view, when we are angry or stressed, the prefrontal cortex partly closes down and the more primal parts of the brain take over. Anyone who has ever given a public speech will know that random questions from an audience can be difficult to answer, not because you don’t know the answer, but because the stress reaction kicks in and limits normal thought.
When you encounter situations that make you angry while driving, make a conscious decision to pull over and give yourself a minute to get your thoughts back to normal before you continue driving. That minute could save your, or someone else’s, life.

Driving Risk Management Ltd

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