Sheffield drivers among most dangerous due to emotions

Road rage or any other emotion can affect your driving
Road rage or any other emotion can affect your driving
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Road rage - and more often happiness - cause city motorists to speed, new research reveals.

Just one in ten UK drivers believe feeling happy affects being behind the wheel yet 1.41 million admit to speeding as a result of feeling upbeat.

Driving emoticons

Driving emoticons

Regionally some 65% admit to travelling over legal limit when in a good mood with 59% of Yorkshire drivers admitted to speeding while angry.

Motoring experts Confused.com's survey shows over half (51%) of motorists nationally believe emotions don’t impact on their ability to drive, especially not positive feelings such as happiness or excitement.

But 4.52 million drivers admit to committing illegal offences such as running red lights or speeding as a result of feeling emotional with further 3.23 million motorists having had a crash or near miss as a result of such emotions.

Yorkshire motorists are found to be most dangerous when happy as they number most (65%) admitting speeding when in a good mood.

Behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings

Behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings

The recent surbey reveals the way in which driving under the influence of emotions impacts our mind, body and actions. And, therefore, our ability to drive safely.

Confused.com partnered with TV behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings to explore anger, stress, anxiety, sadness, exhaustion, worry/fear, excitement and happiness.

The investigation follows revelation we don’t take our emotions seriously while driving. But Jo explains: “Like so many driving behaviours, anything that drifts from a state of equilibrium is always a potential problem on the road.

“If you’re feeling giddy with joy, you’re likely to be self-absorbed, which may impair your concentration. So make sure you focus on the journey rather than letting your mind wander," she warns..

Driving emoticons

Driving emoticons

"When feeling happy, your heart rate could increase from a standard 60 BPM to 100 BPM. Also feel-good hormones such as dopamine and serotonin flood our bodies. This can make us feel highly alert. But this can sometimes impair focus and concentration while driving".

She advises: “Focus on your speed as happiness is just as dangerous as anger. Happy drivers are more likely to speed or run red lights due to feeling invincible and powerful.”

While experiencing road rage, your heart rate is said to triple, accelerating from a standard 60 BPM to 180 BPM. Your blood pressure rises, adrenaline is released, muscles tense and attention narrows.

Anger is thought of as most dangerous emotion by 79% of drivers. Psychologist Jo Hemmings agrees: "The most obvious manifestation of anger behind the wheel is road rage.

"We become territorial in our cars and any threat to our territory or behaviour can be perceived as an affront. This makes us angry and causes us to take revenge without due consideration for the consequences.

"This is not only aimed at those that have caused the anger but other road users too without due consideration for the consequences.

“However, other common situations that instigate anger include driving while arguing, driving after an argument, and driving after a bad day at work.”

When it comes to arguing with a partner while driving, more than one in three couples do not hold back. Some 34% of those in a relationship admit to frequently arguing while behind the wheel, increasing chances of an accident and putting both at risk.

Whether it’s worrying about work, relationships or family, “highway hypnosis” - when the mind gets lost in deep thoughts instead of focusing on the road - is most likely to occur when we feel this way, similar to being in a light sleep.

Perhaps what we appreciate least is negative impact our more positive emotions have on our driving ability. A good mood or a sense of heightened anticipation can make us feel over-stimulated, with feel-good hormones coursing through us. These can also impair our focus and concentration, leading us to take unnecessary risks or drive too fast.

Confused.com motoring editor Amanda Stretton added: "There are many things that drivers do behind the wheel that could be considered distracting – smoking, eating, talking on a phone – but feeling emotional might not come into people’s minds.

"And, while many may think it’s just sadness or anger that can affect your driving, this research shows happiness can sometimes be just as detrimental.

“While we’re not advising drivers to be void of emotion, it’s important to be aware of how your feelings could lead you to make poor road choices such as speeding and erratic driving.

"Motorists who are caught committing driving offences will need to notify their insurer, which could result in increased premiums. If you’re feeling over-excited or upset, take a moment to compose yourself before getting behind the wheel, she added.

Explore the campaign's interactive tool http://www.confused.com/car-insurance/driving-emotions illustrating different emotions drivers can feel while behind the wheel.