Getting behind the wheel while you are feeling angry or upset is a bad idea. More than that, it is a dangerous distraction because it takes your focus off the road. In fact, multiple studies show that emotional driving greatly increases the risk of a crash.
Schmidt Kramer discusses the intense emotions drivers may experience behind the wheel and how they can lead to a serious collision.
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What is Emotional Driving?
Emotional driving is what happens when people operate their vehicles while feeling overly intense feelings, such as:
- Anger to the point of rage
- Extreme sadness or crying; hysteria
- Deep depression/not caring about anything
- Heightened fear or panic triggered by something or someone
Emotional driving can also include positive feelings. For example, say you are driving with friends to a concert you bought tickets for months ago. A car full of concert-goers rocking out to that artist’s music may be fun, but it creates an unsafe driving situation.
A driver’s duty is to remain alert and focused on the road. While being rowdy, goofing around or not paying attention, you could easily miss a road hazard or drift out of your traffic lane into oncoming traffic.
Why is Driving While Emotional So Dangerous?
Research shows that driving while emotional greatly increases a driver’s risk for a crash – as much as ten times the normal risk. This is because intense emotions impair your judgment. They also delay your ability to react to unexpected situations. If you are driving, that creates a real danger to you, your passengers and others sharing the road.
Overly emotional drivers often experience road “blindness” or tunnel vision. In this state, you might miss a turn or go through an intersection when you do not have the right of way. You may also not see a child in the road quickly enough to be able to stop.
Intense Emotions Can Lead to Road Rage
Studies show that some emotional drivers become more angry and aggressive. In a study conducted by the AAA Foundation, 80 percent of the participants said they had experienced intense anger while driving. Both men and women in the study admitted to being more reckless and even committing acts of road rage, such as:
- Trying to intimidate the driver in front by following too closely/tailgating
- Making rude gestures at another driver
- Laying on their horns and honking loudly at a driver
- Merging or changing lanes dangerously
- Running red lights
- Excessively speeding
What if Something Happens While Driving That Makes You Emotional?
Many drivers may be fine when they get behind the wheel but experience something on the road that triggers strong emotions of anger, anxiety or upset.
Some common examples include:
- Increased stress due to running late for work or an appointment
- Having a driver following your car too closely
- A driver who suddenly cuts in front of you
- Arguing with someone on the phone or with another passenger
- Getting fired
- Receiving bad news about a family member or friend getting injured
- Driving at night and realizing the driver behind you might be following you
Exciting news and events can also trigger strong emotions. Even though they are positive emotions, they can still cause you to not pay attention to your driving, such as:
- Anticipation of a party or other fun event you are going to
- Some career-related success, like getting an award, promotion or raise
- Receiving word of news you have been waiting for, like being told you are cancer-free
- Celebrating exciting news, such as getting a driver’s license, graduating from college or the birth of a child
How Intense Emotions Can Lead to a Crash
The trigger for dangerous driving while emotional is the intensity of the feelings. You can be happy about something and focus on the road. It is only when your emotions are so intense that you are no longer paying attention. Drivers in this situation become focused on the emotion and forget about the driving.
For example, you might get on the phone or talk about your exciting news with passengers in the car. However, in your excitement, you might not notice a red light or even an approaching vehicle that jumped the green. As unbelievable as it sounds, you could even turn into traffic going the wrong way.
There are other subtle ways that overly emotional drivers may get into a crash. One common way this happens is when the driver is getting rowdy with others in the car or excitedly talking on the phone. Often this behavior results in drivers drifting out of their traffic lane without realizing it.
Driving while angry or in a state of rage is probably the most dangerous type of emotional driving. It can lead you to do things you would not normally do. For instance, drivers have been known to deliberately rear-end other vehicles. Some people may recklessly speed and end up losing control of their vehicles before crashing.
What Can You Do if You Become Emotional While Driving?
Learn how to recognize if you are feeling out of control. It can alert you that you need to take some steps to manage your emotions, such as by:
- Working to bring your focus back by taking deep, calming breaths
- Putting on soothing music to help bring you back to a state of calm
- Mentally restraining yourself from escalating an intense situation by making gestures, laying on the horn or becoming aggressive
- Gradually slowing your vehicle down
- Visualizing the extent of serious harm you could cause someone in this state
If you are unable to calm yourself, it is better to immediately find a safe place to pull over and take a break. If you continue driving and get into a crash, you could be held fully liable for the damages.
Contact Our Law Offices for a Free Consultation
If another driver causes you harm due to negligence, such as emotional driving, we recommend seeking legal help as soon as possible.
The legal team at Schmidt Kramer has a history of proven results, and we are ready to seek full and fair compensation for your medical costs, lost wages and other damages.
Your initial consultation is completely free. If you have a case and we represent you, there are no costs or fees to get started or throughout the legal process. We only get paid if you do.
Experienced Lawyer. Proven Results. (717) 727-1403