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Emotional Driving: What It Is and How It Often Leads to Auto Accidents

Learn to recognize emotional driving and stop it before it gets the best of you.

Auto accidents often begin with one or more drivers feeling some type of intense emotion, such as anger. The danger of these scenarios is that this mental state generally leads to poor decision-making, which in turn may cause an accident. What you can do to avoid that cascade of adverse outcomes is learn to recognize emotional driving and stop it before it gets the best of you.

angry st. louis driver

Common Emotions People Feel

There are three emotions that people typically feel when driving. They are as follows.

  • Anger Road rage is an emotional driving term that has broken into our day to day vernacular. The reason for that development is how widespread and damaging this mental state can be.
  • Anxiety – Another emotion you might experience is anxiety. That feeling could be caused by a general psychological issue or an unrelated matter, but it most often comes about for more direct reasons. The two that come to mind are being late and going to an important event, which usually go hand in hand.
  • Sadness – Whether it is on the phone or in person, you might receive some crushing news just before you hit the road.

How Emotion Can Compromise Driving Ability

Each of the emotions we explained above can lead to a compromised ability to drive. While sadness and anxiety can cause a person to make mistakes and get into an accident, they usually aren’t too problematic. Angry drivers, on the other hand, tend to make aggressive maneuvers, speed, and even try to hurt other people on purpose.

What You Can Do to Stay Safe and Control Your Emotions

The following four tips will help you avoid emotional driving in most circumstances.

  • Leave Early – Leaving early and giving yourself time to get to your destination should cut down on anxiety, as you won’t be worried about being late.
  • Avoid TrafficTraffic tends to intensify every emotion you feel. If you can avoid it, it might be worth a slightly longer trip that doesn’t go through populated areas.
  • Stay Calm – This method is easier said than done, but most of us have some tactics we use to keep ourselves calm. Whether that is listening to slow music, talking yourself out of anger, or anything else, you should do your best to stay level-headed.
  • Take a Break – Lastly, you can usually take a break when you’re emotions get out of control. You may want to utilize this option as long as there won’t be dire consequences to you showing up late to your destination.

Whether you’re feeling angry, anxious, or sad, you should not let that emotion get the better of you when you’re on the road. If you do, there is a significant chance that you’ll end up in a car accident. Fortunately, merely educating yourself about emotional driving and being aware of your emotions is an excellent way to avoid it. The next and final step is using a few simple techniques to control your mental state. Doing so should ensure the safety of you and your passengers.


Anger is often cited as one of the most dangerous emotions to feel when behind the wheel. And it’s easy to see why. When angry, we’re more likely to take risks, act impulsively, and make poor decisions. This can lead to accidents, injuries, and even fatalities. That’s why learning how to control our anger when we’re behind the wheel is important. Here are a few tips that can help:

  • Recognize your triggers: What sets you off when you’re driving? Drivers who cut you off or tailgate you? Or is it something else entirely? Once you know your triggers, you can be prepared for them and start working on avoiding them.
  • Take a deep breath: It sounds cliché, but it really does help. When you start to feel your anger rising, take a few deep breaths and try to relax. This will help clear your head and allow you to think more logically about the situation.
  • Don’t take things personally: Just because someone cuts you off in traffic doesn’t mean they’re doing it to spite you. They may be having a bad day or be in a hurry. Whatever the reason, try not to take it personally.

Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety can also have a profound impact on your ability to drive safely. When you’re feeling stressed or anxious, your heart rate and blood pressure increase, which can make it difficult to focus on the road. You might also find yourself making more mistakes, such as misjudging distances or forgetting to signal when you change lanes. This can lead to accidents. If you’re feeling stressed or anxious while driving, the following tips can help:

  • Take a few deep breaths and focus on positive thoughts 
  • Listen to calming music or audiobook
  • If you find yourself starting to feel overwhelmed, pull over to a safe location and take a break


Many people think fatigue is physical, but it’s a brain-derived emotion. That’s right; the feeling of fatigue originates in the brain, and it’s the body’s way of telling you that it needs rest. Fatigue can have several different causes, including stress, anxiety, and depression.

When you’re feeling fatigued, your reaction time slows down, and you’re more likely to make mistakes. Fatigue can also cause you to lose focus and become easily distracted. If you’re driving and feel fatigued, it’s important to pull over to a safe location and take a break. Go for a walk, get some fresh air, and give your eyes a break from the road.

Free Consultation with a St. Louis Car Accident Lawyer

Don’t talk to an insurance claims adjuster before speaking with The Hoffmann Law Firm, L.L.C. We can help you avoid making statements that may affect the outcome of your case. The consultation is free; you don’t pay unless we get you money!

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Updated: July 26, 2022