4 Ways Your Mental State Impacts Your Driving

Have you ever stopped to notice how you feel when you get in your car? Do you enjoy the quiet time by yourself to relax and recharge? Or, do you find yourself easily aggravated by the inconsiderate and incompetent drivers around you? Not surprisingly, your mental state impacts your driving behaviour, and your bad mood can have serious consequences behind the wheel. Here are five ways your mental state affects your driving – and a couple of simple solutions to help put you in a better frame of mind.

You’re distracted by your phone

Canadian Underwriter reports that texting and driving is tied with drunk driving as the top road safety concern for Canadians. Despite this, the same article points out that in many provinces, like Saskatchewan, distracted driving is also at an all-time high. Canadians have reason to be concerned by distracted driving: data from Ontario shows that one person is injured in a distracted-driving collision every half hour, and if you’re on your phone, you’re four times more likely to crash than a driver focused on the road. The best way to combat distraction is to put your phone somewhere you can’t see or reach it while you’re driving – so you won’t be tempted by notifications when you should be watching the road.

You’re feeling rushed.

If you’re leaving your house in a hurry, with too little time to get to your destination, you’re going to be tempted to push the speed limit to save time. The bad news about speeding tickets is that in addition to the fine you’ll have to pay, you also run the risk of increasing your premium when it’s time to renew your car insurance. If you know that you tend to run late, set yourself up for success with a few good habits. For example, make your breakfast and lay out your clothes on work nights and always keep your important items (like keys, phone, wallet, coat) in the same place so you’re never running around looking for lost items at the last minute.

You’re easily frustrated.

If you occasionally (or often!) feel your temper flare behind the wheel, you’re not alone: in one study, 80 percent of drivers admitted to expressing anger, aggression or road rage at least once in the past year. Your foul mood can do more than just ruin your day; aggressive driving contributes to 56 percent of fatal car crashes. Luckily, there are many ways you can deal with road rage – from setting the stage for peace with calming music, to pulling over and taking a breather when your blood starts to boil. You’ll also want to be careful how you respond to angry drivers on the road, like not making eye contact with someone you know is furious.

You’re tired. 

Whether you’re a new parent who’s short on sleep, or exhausted from burning the midnight oil at work,  you’re tired and it’s making you a lousy driver. Transport Canada reports that 60 percent of Canadian drivers admit they have driven while fatigued, and a whopping 15 percent have fallen asleep behind the wheel in the past year. Another sobering statistic: an estimated 20 percent of fatal collisions involve driver fatigue. Aside from the obvious solution – getting more sleep – they offer the following tips for long car rides: share the driving with your passengers; take regular rest stops to get out and stretch; eat light meals and drink plenty of water; and stop to take a nap if necessary.

Knowing your default mental state behind the wheel is half the battle. Next time you go for a drive, make a conscious effort to apply some of the tips and tools above to make driving a more enjoyable experience. You can talk to either a psychologist or therapist. Not only will you be happier, but you’ll be more likely to stay out of trouble on the road!