Crash risk higher if emotions fly

2016-03-22 06:00
 According to research, it is not a good idea to get behind the wheel when you are in a bad mood.

According to research, it is not a good idea to get behind the wheel when you are in a bad mood.

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There are some “choice” expressions that South Africans use when driving, some of which are no doubt a reflection of frustrations, dissatisfaction or pressures brought about while working. While we have been advised that these are precursors to possible road rage, we may not have put them into perspective from the likelihood of being involved in a crash.

According to new research by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute in the United States, drivers increase their crash risk nearly tenfold when they get behind the wheel while visibly angry, sad, crying or emotionally agitated.

It was also discovered that drivers more than double their crash risk when they engage in distracting activities that require them to take their eyes off the road, such as using a cellphone, reading or writing and using touchscreen menus on a car’s instrument panel.

This research revealed that drivers dialling handheld cellphones increase their chance of crashing by 12 times. Reading or writing, including on a tablet, increases crash risk 10 times. Reaching for an object (other than a cellphone) bumps up the crash risk by nine times.

Distracted drivingAccording to the institute’s research, drivers in the country surveyed engage in some type of distracting activity about half of the time while driving a car. One can only but imagine what the percentage for South African drivers would be – how much higher?

These findings are important because there is an ever-increasing younger population of drivers, particularly teenagers, who are more prone to engaging in distracting activities while driving, and the analysis shows that, if no steps are taken in the near future to limit the number of distracting activities, those who represent the next generation of drivers will only continue to be at greater risk of a crash.

Of interest was how travelling well above the speed limit creates about 13 times the risk, and driver performance errors such as sudden or improper braking or being unfamiliar with a car or road have an impact on individual risk, according to researchers.

No doubt the following observations will please women drivers who are pretty much stereotyped as researchers also found several factors previously thought to increase driver risk – including applying makeup or following a car too closely – actually had a lower prevalence in the driving study. That means they were minimally present or were not present at all in the crashes analysed. Male drivers be warned!

All things considered then, the message we take from a study such as this one is that while some behaviours can be corrected by training, there are some which can – and should – be addressed by taking a check on our emotions (or letting a friend or family member’s “words of wisdom” sink in) before getting behind the wheel.

Take care and get a grip on your emotions when driving.


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