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Driving While Stressed During the Holidays

Driving while stressed during the holidays can be as dangerous as driving while texting. 

Sad and tired woman leaning her head on the steering wheel while sitting in the car, photo: bokan / Shutterstock

Managing your emotions during the holidays can be difficult, especially if you are driving while stressed.  We all know that texting and driving is very dangerous, but not many people realize that driving while under emotional stress can lead to bad judgement, road rage, and even car accidents. Oftentimes the holiday season brings more stress into your home than you may be used to. Shopping, meal preparation, and visiting friends and relatives (just to name a few of the things that keep us extra-busy during this often chaotic season!) can open the door to a wide variety of emotions that we may not face throughout the rest of the year. It is important to recognize these feelings and find healthy ways to diffuse them while navigating the holiday season, especially when you’re behind the wheel!

How to Remain in Control

One thing to keep in mind is that both negative and positive emotions can impact how we behave as drivers. So if your excitement is running high as you head out to a holiday party, or if you’ve just received a really wonderful present, you’re likely to be just as distracted on the road as when you’re really stressed or angry. And those high emotions could lead to you accidentally running a red light or drifting out of your travel lane. Or if you are extra-stressed, you may be more likely to react aggressively if you are behind a slow driver or if you get cut off in traffic.

Man driving car despair after car accident, photo: Tomasso79 / Shutterstock

If you find yourself experiencing overwhelming feelings — either positive or negative — while you are behind the wheel, a smart first step to ensure you stay safe on the road is to acknowledge any strong emotions you might be having, and be aware of the state of mind that puts you in. Do you feel on edge and angry? That could lead to aggressive driving or a road rage incident. Giddy and unable to concentrate? You could become distracted enough that you rear-end another car, or cross the center line.

If you feel that your emotions are having any impact on your ability to properly control your vehicle — if you are having a difficult time staying focused on the road — pull over to a safe spot on the side of the roadway and put your four-way flashers on, where appropriate. Take steps to calm your emotions, and don’t start driving again until you are sure that your head has cleared. Some good ways to do this are closing your eyes and taking deep breaths, or turning on some calming music or a relaxing podcast. It might also help you focus if you run through your mind’s eye potential consequences of dangerous driving, such as a car accident or a traffic ticket.

Recognizing your emotions and keeping them under control can help you have a happy Thanksgiving and safe holiday season with your loved ones. The best gift you can give your friends and family is travelling safely and focusing on making it to your destination without incident! Happy and safe travels from all of us here at Burnett & Williams.


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