For many people, driving is a way to relieve stress, get away from negative situations, or clear their thoughts. But getting behind the wheel when your emotions are running high can be dangerous.
Distracted driving isn't just about texting, browsing the web, or eating a cheeseburger. Emotions can be very distracting for drivers and result in devastating roadway accidents. If you're feeling angry, scared, or depressed, your driving could be nearly as impaired as if you were typing a tweet or had drank alcohol. Here are some tips to help you avoid emotional driving and stay safe when things aren't going your way.
Take Some Deep Breaths
Deep breathing isn't just for meditation and yoga class; it can also truly help calm your nerves in emotional situations. And you don't have to be Bruce Lee to do it right. If you must drive, take a moment or two to close your eyes and take a few deep, relaxing breaths.
Take a Break
If deep breathing isn't enough to calm you down, you probably need to step out of the car and take a break. Safely pull off the road or fully onto the shoulder to clear your head. It may help to get out of the car and go for a short walk, or pick up a bottle of water and snack to eat.
Listen to Calming Music
Different types of music have different effects upon drivers, but whatever makes you feel calm and focused should be what you listen to while driving. Put on something that soothes you, but that doesn't feed into the emotions that you're feeling. Many drivers find classical and jazz music to be particularly calming.
Think about Something Else
It may be easier said than done. But while driving, try to think about something else – anything else, really – than what is currently upsetting you. Become hyper-focused on the technical aspects and mental challenges of driving; immerse yourself in what's happening on the road.
It's never a good idea to drive when you're feeling rushed, stressed, or pressured. Even if that's how you feel, you shouldn't let those emotions affect your driving judgment. Drivers who feel hurried tend to become impatient behind the wheel, and this is a leading cause of auto accidents. Just think about how much more time you will waste if you get pulled over for a speeding ticket or are involved in even the most minor of fender benders!
Ask Someone Else to Drive
If you are in the company of someone else who is in a better mental state and is a safe driver, you could ask the other driver to take the wheel for a bit while you calm down.
Of course, it's not always possible to avoid emotional driving – circumstances may require you to drive after you're involved in an emergency or a dramatic confrontation. But by keeping these tips in mind, you'll be better prepared to stay calm and focused while behind the wheel.