How Being Stressed May Lead To Car Accidents

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Car Accidents Related To Stress

The responsibilities of life can at times be overwhelming. The added pressure leads to stress which can ultimately negatively affect our lives. Unfortunately, this extra stress can sometimes lead to distracted driving which claims roughly nine lives per day. In 2017, nearly 400,000 drivers were injured in car accidents involving distracted driving in the USA alone.

There are ways to prevent distracting driving accidents, starting with managing stress.

What Is Stress?

Stress is a reaction the body has to external changes. The body will respond through emotional, mental, and physical responses. Life stressors can be both negative and positive. Examples of negative stressors include financial hardship, relationship pressure, or even peer pressure.

Positive stressors can be anything that objectively seem positive, but subjectively may be adding tension in one’s life emotionally, mentally, etc. Examples include an overwhelming promotion, newborns, holidays, weddings, etc. Positive stress tends to be temporarily challenging. Negative stress can be ongoing and can have serious health consequences if not handled properly.

Stress affects not only the mind but also the body. These mental and physical distractions can distract a driver and hinder the ability to practice safe driving on the roadway.

stressed driving

How Does Stress Affect The Body & Your Driving?

When the autonomic nervous system detects stress, it causes physiological changes to occur in the body. This is commonly known as the “fight or flight” response. Common side effects of this reaction in the body include, but are not limited to:

  • Headaches
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Upset stomach
  • Chest pain
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Dizziness
  • Sweaty palms
  • Fatigue and exhaustion
  • Involuntary Tremors
  • Muscle tension in the neck, face, or shoulders

These symptoms are uncomfortable to experience at rest, let alone behind the wheel and under the pressure of driving. Driving requires special attention and coordination to be safe on the road. If any of the above symptoms became apparent during a drive, the driver may lose that coordination and ability to drive safely.

What Is Distracted Driving?

The regular stressors of life that are constantly on our mind frequently lead to distracted driving. Distracted driving is defined by any activity that draws away attention from safe driving.

Examples of distracted driving include:

  • Cell phone use: calls, texts, photos, social media, etc.
  • Other passengers in the vehicle
  • Eating and drinking while driving
  • Obstructions on the roadway
  • People or other visual distractions on the side of the road
  • Auditory distractions – on the radio, outside the vehicle, etc.

Distractions can also be mental. A driver who is “lost in thought” may not be paying close attention to the roadway. Mental distractions can occur when the driver is thinking about a work project, a fight with a spouse, bills, the kids and their extracurriculars, etc. A driver is mentally distracted when he or she is not fully mentally present while driving. This is not uncommon. How many times have you accidentally missed an exit because you were ‘lost in thought’?

It is imperative be mentally present while operating a vehicle. While you might be in “auto-pilot” mode driving and thinking about life, you could potentially not realize changes in your driving. For example, if you are deep in thought, you might not even realize that your foot has been weighing a little heavier on the gas pedal, increasing your speed and the likelihood of a car accident.

How To Prevent Mental Distractions While Driving

Regardless of what is going on in life, it is always 100% the driver’s responsibility to give full attention to the roadway. Staying mentally present will prevent anything from diverting attention. Safe driving practices include scanning the roadway, using mirrors, and taking notice of cyclists and pedestrians. Stress can be managed daily to prevent mental distractions while driving.

  • Learn triggers – You might be aware of situations going on at home, at work, in life, etc., that cause you to be distracted in your daily actions, including driving. Knowing what is distracting to you is the first step to regaining control of your thoughts.
  • Practice self-awareness – As mentioned, it is crucial to stay mentally present. Create an awareness around thoughts, actions, feelings, and patterns. Being aware of how you respond to certain triggers can help you maintain a level of control over those responses. The key is not to pretend you are not bothered, but to acknowledge that you are bothered and handle it differently than you normally would, so as to avoid the mental distraction while driving.
  • Resolve issues prior to driving – Often, we use car rides to clear our minds. It is best not to mull over issues weighing on you while driving. Resolve the problems before leaving. If you cannot clear your mind, pull over safely and resolve the issue before getting back on the road.
  • Get enough sleep – Get plenty of rest and avoid heavy meals before driving. Fatigue can drain mental energy and result in lack of alertness while driving. Additionally, do not take any medications that list drowsiness as a side effect before driving. If you are suffering from fatigue while driving, pull over safely and rest.
  • Learn relaxation techniques – Not every life issue is easily solved within a few moments. In fact, most of our life stressors are long-term or ongoing. Practicing mindfulness and relaxation techniques may help. Yoga and meditation are often helpful in quieting the mind and slowing down the worry we can feel. Studies suggest that even 10-15 minutes of mindfulness meditation daily can improve cognitive function, concentration, and working memory. Other studies show that 10-15 minutes of yoga daily can increase energy, reduce stress, increase confidence and calmness, and can make you an emotionally stronger and happier person.

Failure to tend to mental health can lead to a worsened mental state long term, a weakened immune system, increased risk of substance abuse, chronic physical health issues, and even increased risk of suicide, amongst others.

What Can I Do To Avoid Emotional Driving?

  • Plan accordingly – If you are someone who becomes livid in stop-and-go traffic or are constantly worrying about making it to your destination on time, try to leave a little bit early. Check traffic reports a few hours before your trip and pack your bags early so you can leave for your destination in a more relaxed manner.
  • Get enough sleep – Obviously, demanding schedules can impede on our ability to get a full night’s sleep. However, fatigue can lead to extra emotional and mental pressure, which can affect one’s ability to navigate the roadway safely.
  • Breathe – Deep breathing can calm the nerves and release tension.
  • Let it go – Despite how others are driving, it is your responsibility to remain in control of the vehicle Do not let others affect your stability behind the wheel.
  • Set the example – It can be easier to control our emotions and behaviors when we are reminded that others are watching. If you have other passengers in the vehicle, especially kids, they are looking to your example for safe driving.
  • Change the radio – The vibration of music can have different effects on our bodies. Sometimes intense music or even negative news on the radio can elevate our heartrate. Try switching to more relaxing music or driving in a quiet space to clear your head.
  • Ask someone else to drive – If emotions are high enough that it is not safe for you to be behind the wheel, ask another passenger to take over for a bit.
  • Take a break – If necessary, safely pull the vehicle to the side of the road. This would be a good opportunity to get some fresh air, eat a snack, and drink some water.

stressed driving

Overcoming Emotional & Mental Stress

Emotional trauma and stress can be caused by a myriad of events or circumstances such as childhood trauma, unsafe environments, illness, domestic violence, abuse, traumatic events including car accidents and personal injury, medical care, legal proceedings etc. Overcoming emotional and mental stress can be challenging. Below are helpful tips on how to do so.

  • Maintain a positive mental attitude. – Life can be tough. Practicing positive thinking can help reshape the way you view the world and help with inner peace and happiness. This is not to suggest that ‘faking a smile’ will fix all your problems. However, maintaining a positive attitude can help keep you centered when challenges do show up. Daily forgiveness and gratitude practice can lead to a positive mental state.
  • Release control – When hard challenges do occur in life, we cannot always control the situation. This can create additional stress on top of everything we are already going through. Sometimes, it is best to take a deep breath and release the need to control the situation. Ultimately, there is no need to create tension around the things in life that are out of our hands.
  • Communicate feelings – As humans, we tend to overthink. Sometimes, a simple communication can either fix a problem or at least relieve some worry we have about the issue. Not only will communicating make you feel better, but it might even make someone else feel better. For example, if you and a friend or partner are in a disagreement, sometimes it is best to just communicate calmly what’s on your mind. That alone relieves tension between the parties and can free your mind from wondering what if.
  • Practice relaxation techniques – As mentioned above, practicing mindfulness can improve emotional strength, confidence, and stress levels.
  • Exercise regularly – Emotional trauma can disrupt the body’s natural equilibrium, freezing you in a state of hyperarousal and fear. Exercise can burn off adrenaline, release endorphins, and repair the nervous system. Try exercising for 30 minutes or more at least four days per week. It could be as simple as going for a walk during a lunch break or dancing around your house to your favorite music.
  • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals – Eating a well-balanced meal, drinking enough water to stay hydrated, and limiting or avoiding caffeine and alcohol has been shown to improve anxiety. A balanced diet will provide the vitamins and nutrients your body requires to function properly.
  • Say no when you are overwhelmed – It is ok to take personal time and say no to friends and family. In order to protect your personal peace, it is okay to take a day off to recharge your batteries.
  • Seek professional help – Recovering from trauma takes time, and everyone heals at their own pace. If trauma is seriously affecting your day-to-day ability to function, personal relationships, emotional and mental health, or substance use/abuse, you should consider seeking professional help.

Treatment for trauma typically involves discharging pent-up “fight-or-flight” energy and regulating your emotions again. There are different types of therapy used to treat emotional trauma. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps process and evaluate thoughts and feelings about a trauma. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) has become more popular in recent years and helps desensitize the patient to the emotions they once were disturbed by. Stress Inoculation training can be sought individually or in a group and helps reshape the way you deal with the stress from the trauma. There are a variety of different types of therapies that can aid in healing trauma. There is no “one size fits all” for therapy and ultimately, prescription medication might a consideration. Talk to a professional to see what options are best for you.

If emotional trauma is caused by a car accident from another party’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation.

How Can Batta Fulkerson Help You As You Recover From A Car Accident?

Effective stress management helps release tension and break free from the power stress has over your life. Managing stress can lead to a happier, healthier, and more productive life. It can also prevent unsafe driving and ultimately car accidents. If you have been injured in a car accident, you might feel stress about medical costs, fees, property damage, and personal life changes. A personal injury attorney can help relieve this stress and get you the compensation you deserve.

Contact the team at Batta Fulkerson Law Group today to schedule a FREE one-hour consultation to review your case and available options.

What to expect in your Consultation Meeting:

  • Collection of information about you to help assist you better
  • Review of any court documents
  • Review of what happened in your claim
  • Explanation of court processes, fees, and what we can do to help your case.

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