Almost one third (31%) of drivers say that they regularly feel stressed behind the wheel, and tailgating is the top trigger for road rage, according to a survey of 2,000 British adults undertaken by YouGov on behalf of Swinton Group.
More than half of motorists (52%) cited poor decisions by other road users such as speeding as contributing to their stress levels, while just under half (47%) revealed that bad road surfaces grind their gears.
Over a third (35%) feel that bad weather causes them to fret, and a similar number (33%) admitted that passing cyclists drive them to despair.
To further explore the effects of stressful driving, a field study collected the heart rate (HR) and electrodermal activity (EDA) data of motorists whilst undertaking 20-minute journeys across the UK under controlled conditions.
These findings highlight that motorists experience an average of six stress inducing incidents every minute whilst navigating UK roads, with heavy traffic, cars pulling out and other road users stopping abruptly charting subconscious responses most frequently. Sudden dangers, inconsiderate drivers and congestion cause the highest stress responses in drivers overall. Video footage of the test drives can be found via the Swinton website here.
Participants tackled stressful conditions for at least 40% of every drive. Shockingly, the study also found that motorists can spend as much as 85% of a journey experiencing stress, alluding to the fact that we are fast becoming a nation of chronically stressed drivers.
On average, UK workers spend 58 minutes per day and a total of twenty-seven days a year commuting. As a nation we can expect to be stressed for as many as fifteen days of the year if our commute is undertaken by car.
Dr Prudence Knight from Push Doctor comments: “When we feel stressed, our body releases hormones like adrenaline in response to both physical or mental demands. But too much stress too often can promote the overproduction of other hormones like cortisol which can contribute to the development of a range of physical and mental health conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, anxiety and depression. Chronic stress can impair our judgement by making us anxious and irritable and contribute to poor decision making whilst driving”.
Anne Kirk, customer director at Swinton Group, said: “We see a sharp increase in calls to our customer service team each year from October and throughout the winter period as drivers navigate tougher driving conditions and busier roads.
“To help drivers cope with the stresses they face on the roads, we’ve partnered with road safety specialists, IAM RoadSmart, to provide expert advice and guidance to aid motorists in becoming more confident and calm behind the wheel – even when stressful situations arise. We know that stressed drivers can contribute to accidents, and we want to play our part in helping reduce the likelihood of incidents on the road.”
The IAM Roadsmart guide to reducing stress whilst driving is available here.
TV and radio presenter Gethin Jones was road tested by IAM RoadSmart on the six top driving stressors, including tailgating, to show how he coped with the pressure.
To explore the stressed driver survey and field study findings in full, please visit: https://www.swinton.co.uk/car-insurance/stressed-drivers/#nation.
|Trigger for stress||% of drivers who cite this as stressful|
|1||Being tailgated (i.e. another driver being very close behind me)||53%|
|2||Poor driving decisions by other drivers (e.g. speeding)||52%|
|3||Bad road surfaces (e.g. potholes)||47%|
|4||Winding lanes with blind bends (i.e. bends I cannot easily see around)||37%|
|5||Bad weather (e.g. heavy rain etc.)||35%|
|6||Passing cyclists on the road||33%|
|7||A lack of road lighting||29%|
|8||It being too sunny (i.e. sun shining in my eyes when driving)||28%|
|9||Passing horses on the road||25%|
|10||Passing tractors on the road||24%|