It only takes a few seconds of distraction away from the road to miss warning signs of danger, potentially resulting in an accident that could cost drivers and innocent bystanders their lives. Emotions and driving go hand-in-hand and affect safety.

As much as there is an emphasis on not drinking and driving or texting and driving, rightfully so, there is another danger that can be just as dangerous as taking your eyes off the road: Driving while experiencing extreme emotions. The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that drivers experiencing intense emotions while behind the wheel are ten times more likely to crash than a level-headed driver.

These emotions can be anything from anger, stress, sadness, fatigue, and even extreme happiness.


We’ve all dealt with an aggressive driver – or maybe have been the aggressive driver; either way, it’s not fun, nor is it safe for anyone involved. Angry drivers tend to take more risks on the road, speed more, tailgate, yell, honk, and generally have more accidents. Over a seven-year period, anger caused 218 deaths and 12,610 injuries! There are many more reasons why anger is such a dangerous emotion behind the wheel – it should probably get its own blog post! (Stay tuned for that).


In a study on drivers’ mental states and their effect on driving,1 the percentage of sudden accelerations is six times higher in stressed drivers compared to unstressed drivers and twice as high in the case of sudden braking. The stressed drivers also grew fatigued 20% faster than those that weren’t stressed. In addition, the drivers under stress drove at higher speeds, tried to overtake other vehicles, and did not stop at crosswalks more often than their less-stressed counterparts.


In the case of sadness, the main criteria affected by the emotion were the initial and finishing levels of driver fatigue. The sad drivers experienced fatigue 11.5% higher than their initial level after the drive, and those that weren’t sad only experienced a 7.5% increase in fatigue. That in itself isn’t that drastic; what was drastic was that drivers facing intense sadness were in traffic accidents four times more than drivers who were not sad.


Before any questions arise, fatigue is an emotion. According to Doctor Timothy David Noakes, fatigue is a brain-derived emotion that regulates behavior to protect the whole body.

Fatigue slows down the body and mind reactions, acceleration and braking time are higher, and driver focus is gone. The lack of focus forces the driver to constantly make speed corrections by braking and accelerating, which isn’t only dangerous but it also increases fuel consumption. Click here for more info

Extreme Happiness

Strong positive emotions can be just as distracting as strong negative emotions. Anything that could take your mind away from the details of the road can put your life in danger – now, that’s not to say to avoid feeling intense emotions altogether. However, before you get behind the wheel, it is best to regulate your emotions to remain level-headed on the road.

Intense emotions, in general, change the way drivers assess risk. For example, the driver may be so happy they do not notice the high speed at which they are driving – intense emotions call for intense speeds, which is not the best option in terms of safety.

In simple terms, intense emotions are a distraction. Strong emotions create tunnel vision – driver reaction times may slow, they’ll miss details that would lead to the avoidance of an accident, and because they are feeling so intensely, they may not accurately assess risk. These effects can be applied to any driver, even the safest and most attentive driver a fleet has! When emotions are not regulated behind the wheel, there is no guarantee that safety will be a top priority.

Thankfully, there are tips and tricks to regulate emotions before getting into a vehicle.

Regulating Emotions

Regulating intense emotions can be extraordinarily difficult, so we split it into five easy steps that can be done in any order until the driver feels safe to drive again.

1.    Breathe. Inhale and exhale slowly. It’ll slow down your heart rate, relax your body, and cause you to focus on your breath rather than the intense emotion.

2.    Stop. Pull over when you feel erratic on the road and gather yourself. Sometimes you need to stop and make a complete mind reset before returning to the road – take the time to do so!

3.    Wait. Waiting can be hard to do in a time crunch, but even if it’s only for five minutes, waiting until the intense emotion has subsided enough for you to be able to focus on driving can save your life, someone else’s, or both.

4.    Plan. Sometimes the lack of planning causes intense emotion on the road, usually anger; plan and prepare for the unexpected to ensure you make it according to schedule without giving into road rage.

5.    Focus. Remind yourself that you are in a dangerous hunk of metal moving at inhuman speeds. Vehicles have the potential to create irreparable damage, and the driver is in control of that. According to the NHTSA, 94%-96% of vehicle accidents are caused by human error! Focus on the road and stay alert because lives depend on it.

For more tips on regulating emotions behind the wheel, contact us at for more details and information on the courses we offer specifically on regulating emotions!










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