Does Driving Stress You Out?

Research in the 1970s among a predominantly male, middle-class group of people showed that driving more than a certain amount every year (at that time 12,000 miles) became a risk factor for diseases usually associated with stress. Since then, freeways have become much more widespread and the stress of driving has lessened in many respects - despite the tail gating.

Not every aspect of driving is stressful. Driving alone is an opportunity for uninterrupted thinking time. There is a sense of freedom from both professional and domestic worries. If the advent of the freeway has made the mechanics of driving easier, the advent of the cellphone has reduced the isolation that can be an enjoyable experience in the car.

Stress is reduced if a careful timetable is worked out. The timetable should allow for a leisurely drive. Too many drivers, especially those with Type A personalities, compete against the clock. The Redbridge roundabout must be reached within three-quarters of an hour, Airport within an hour and a half, the city within two hours and destination within two hours fifty minutes. It's a good day when an hour or so can be clipped off the whole journey.

The motivation that prompts competition against time is quite different from competitive driving against other drivers, but even so, it is stress-inducing. The dangerous competitor on the road who competes against other drivers is stressed even before he gets into his suped-up Mini Cooper or white van. It is said that aggressive, competitive driving on the roads is a sign of stress caused either by sexual, racial or social feelings of inferiority. Whether or not this is true, competitive driving certainly adds to the tension felt by other drivers. Here are a few basic questions that reveal signs of increasing stress and rising tension that may be caused by life on the road.

  1. How often in the last month have you had a near-miss? Even though the potential accident wouldn't have been your fault, the number of near-misses increases as stress in life rises.
  2. Are you more impatient when driving than elsewhere?
  3. Are your response times ever increased because you are thinking about all those terrible problems in the office or home?
  4. Do you find that the number of people hooting at you as you drive through a built-up area is increasing?
  5. Obviously you never suffer from road rage, but do you find that you are showing naturally understandable irritation about other road users' driving more than you used to?
  6. Are you more easily distracted by passengers so that their chatter is beginning to inhibit your ability to negotiate difficult road conditions?

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