Inspiring Better Health

What’s Driving up Your Stress Levels?

Road rage (male)
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What’s Driving up Your Stress Levels?
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The odds of dying in a car accident for a Qatari resident are five times higher than dying from a stroke.[1] While the situation is improving, the number of deaths from road accidents in Qatar decreased from 246 in 2013 to 222 in 2014,[2] this is still far too high, especially considering the majority of accidents could be prevented. It becomes even clearer when taking a look at this figure illustrating the most common causes of traffic accidents in Qatar in 2011.[3]

Did you know that getting stressed while driving increases your heart rate[4], leads to dangerous driving behaviors and impacts your physical well-being?[5]

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Honking, headlight flashing, overtaking from the wrong side, ignoring red lights — these are all common sights on Qatari roads. It is very clear that these things drastically increase the number of accidents and that just a little more patience and calmness would massively help reduce stress and accidents. Interestingly, simply anticipating stress on your journey changes your physical and psychological reactions. Anxiety, exaggerated caution and aggressive behavior are just some of the ‘symptoms’ that arise from driving whilst stressed.

Where Do these Reactions Come From?

Usually, when confronted with stressful situations, our body engages in a simple fight-or-flight reaction — but we can’t run way if we are driving! So, what often happens is that tension builds up and we get frustrated then aggressive, which can manifest in behaviors like honking or yelling at other drivers.

Let’s find out how you would react in different traffic situations and if there is some space for you to improve. Once you are aware, potentially harmful behaviors during driving can be adjusted and you’ll realize how much safer and happier you and your fellow drivers can be on the roads.

The following questionnaire was adapted from the ‘Driving Behavior Survey’ developed by the Psychology Department of the University of Memphis[6] and was designed to analyze the different facets of anxious and stressed driving.

Simply indicate how you would generally react in the following situations. It is very important that you honestly answer what you would actually do and not what you think the ‘correct’ behavior would be.

Never Rarely Sometimes Often Always

1. I yell at drivers.

2. I drift into other lanes.

3. I swear while I am driving.

4. I hardly put any distance between myself and other cars.

5. I drive too fast or slow.

6. When I am in a hurry I drive close to others (tailgating).

7. I speed up when someone is driving close behind me.

8. If I see a traffic light turning I speed up to get through.

9. I honk my horn at other drivers.

10. I have difficulty blending into the traffic.

11. I barely use my indicator.

12. When changing lanes, I squeeze in as soon as I get the chance even if there is not much space.

How did you do?

So, you are going to need a little bit of maths to work out your score!

  • For every time you choose “never” give yourself 0 point
  • For every time you choose “rarely” give yourself 1 points
  • For every time you choose “sometimes” give yourself 2 points
  • For every time you choose “often” give yourself 3 points
  • For every time you choose “always” give yourself 4 points

Your result:

points
0 – 15 Good news! Your driving stress level is low.
16 – 24 Your driving stress level is average. With a bit of practice you can get even better!
24 – 37 Your driving stress level is above average. You might want to consider learning to stay calm.
38 – 48 Your driving stress level is high. You need to calm down and make changes; you are a danger to yourself and others.

Get Your Driving Behaviour under Control

Here are some tips and tricks that will help you to take control of your driving behavior:

Good planning: Thoroughly plan out the route that you are going to take. Think about where to turn before you start your journey. Be generous with your time planning, for example include a time-buffer for potential traffic jams. Being late for an important appointment creates a lot of stress.

Stay relaxed and grounded: Take some deep breaths from time to time. Don’t let yourself get stressed by the amount of people on the road. Try to stay calm when realizing that the person driving in front of you has trouble with the traffic rules, they might be from another country and not used to the new roads yet. Simply breathe in and out deeply, give your body some oxygen and your physical state a once-over, and stay relaxed.

Acceptance: When approaching, for example, a traffic jam, accept it. You can’t change the fact that you have to wait, but you can change your thoughts towards the event. Embrace the additional time that you have in the car, lean back and relax to a nice radio program, music or your favorite audio book.

It sounds all so simple and it really can be. For your own sake, and for the safety of the other drivers, it is important you stay calm and respect the traffic rules:

  • Change lane to overtake then MOVE back to the slowest lane possible
  • Overtake on the OUTSIDE (left) of other cars not inside on the right
  • Use signals to indicate when you are changing lane and move with caution
  • Leave at least a 2 second gap between you and the car in front

If you stay calm and do not get stressed, driving can become easier and safer. You will even feel better: no aggression, a calm body and mind, and increased health and safety for you and others.

References
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