Distracted Driving Awareness Month: Check-in on Your Emotions Before You Drive!

The Importance of Focusing Your Mind

Taking responsibility and staying off the road also applies even if you’re already driving. If smoke starts billowing out from under the hood, pull over immediately. If you begin feeling fatigued, angry, or otherwise not perfectly fit to drive, it’s time to pull over. Continuing to drive when you’re not at full capacity creates an unacceptable risk.

Assessing your fitness to drive isn’t only for special occasions, or when you have passengers. Safe driving always requires the full function of your hands and feet, your arms and legs, your neck, your ears, eyes, and most of all: your mind. Every single time you drive, it is important you can focus your mind on the driving task. 

You can’t always control whether you’re tired, sick, or emotionally charged. But you can always control whether you drive. Both behavior and decision-making, as well as your knowledge and skills, play a vital role in keeping you safe behind the wheel. 

In the same way, fatigue can alter your mind and take away the skills you need to drive safely, so do strong emotions. Every time you get behind the wheel, you need to be calm, rational, and focused. Strong emotions can:

Increase your heart rate, making you jittery and impulsiveTake over your mood, making you hostile or spitefulMake you inattentive to what’s happening on the road

All emotions including frustration, sadness, grief, anger, and joyful excitement can have negative impacts on your driving. The brain simply cannot focus on the skill-intensive task of driving while being distracted by intense emotions.

Any strong emotion can affect your judgment and driving ability. When you let your emotions drive, you increase your risk and the risk of other roadway users. Check in with your emotions  you drive and if you are not calm, focused, and in control, don’t drive at that time.

Tips on How to Manage Your Emotions While Driving

If you think your emotions are getting the best of you while driving:

Put on calming music and turn off anything that could wind you up.Turn down the temperature or open the windows.Unclench your teeth and lighten your grip on the wheel.Be patient when other drivers make mistakes.Find a safe place to stop and take a break from driving.

Whenever you get behind the wheel, be sure to leave your emotions at the door. Distressed driving IS distracted driving. An appointment can be rescheduled, but a crash can’t be fixed so easily. Driving is a serious job, and if you can’t give it your full attention, you put everyone at risk.

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