You may have heard of—or even experienced—the common phenomenon of road rage, but have you ever considered how your other feelings affect your driving? Despite being a masterful driver, there are always ways to improve your driving skills to keep yourself and others safe on the road.
Though this may seem unrelated to learning how to better control your emotions, extra self-awareness prevents intense emotions from putting your life in danger when doing routine tasks, such as driving. The first step is to learn exactly how your emotions impact your ability to drive before finding the perfect method to balance your feelings in a healthy way.
Anger: Recklessness and Road Rage
The most important emotion to consider before you get behind the wheel is anger. Whether you’ve had a terrible day at work or just finished watching a disappointing game from your favorite team, uncontrolled anger affects everyone differently on the road. For some, becoming blinded by anger results in reckless, impatient driving, such as rolling stops, speeding, or risky lane changes. Others may take their anger out on other drivers by tailgating, honking, or spewing profanity.
Make sure you avoid driving when angry—try to soothe yourself with relaxing, positive thoughts before you go anywhere in a vehicle. Put your anger to the side when driving, and focus on the road ahead until you reach your destination.
Anxiety: Rushing or Extreme Caution
People experience anxiety in different ways; some may feel the crunch of a time limit from being late, while others have a severe fear of driving that affects their decision-making abilities. Driving while anxious (depending on the cause of anxiety) can cause you to make rash decisions in an attempt to quicken the drive, or it can make you overthink your actions and cause an incident.
If you experience anxiety while driving, consider finding ways to relax—leave yourself more time to arrive at your destination and play soothing music to curb anxious thoughts behind the wheel. Don’t get too calm while driving, though, as this can negatively affect your reaction time.
Sadness: Distracted Driving and Slow Reactions
When your head is full of racing, negative thoughts, you may struggle to focus on anything. A task that requires your full attention, such as driving, becomes more challenging than normal with your mind elsewhere. You may miss important signs or have a slower reaction time than usual—at worst, tears can impede your vision. If grief or sadness dampens your drive, try to put it aside and give your full attention to the world around you. Find joy in your environment and take a break when necessary.
How you handle your emotions while driving may differ from those around you, and that’s okay! Staying aware of how your emotions impact your ability to drive with a deep, introspective look into helpful emotional regulation will ensure you constantly improve and keep others safe.