The job of a commercial vehicle driver is tough, and there are numerous circumstances (e.g., problems at home while you’re on the road; trip or delivery delays; differences of opinion with management; passenger issues; hours of service demands; financial responsibilities; long hours on the road, etc.) that can greatly impact a professional driver’s emotions. Yet, emotions, whether positive or negative, can have a detrimental effect on driving and could vastly increase the chances of an accident.
Driving requires paying attention to the right thing at the right time, knowing what to do in new and varied situations, and knowing how to do what is demanded. However, drivers who operate a vehicle when emotions – positive or negative – are high are often focused on what has caused them to feel the way they do, such as a fight with their significant other or receiving great news, rather than on driving. As a result, emotions can cause even otherwise good, safe drivers to make risky moves, experience impaired observations and reaction times, and even exhibit road rage.
Being able to control your emotions, particularly when you are under pressure, can be difficult. But, there are strategies that can help you avoid letting your emotions dictate the way you drive:
• Before driving, acknowledge how you’re feeling and understand what circumstances are influencing specific emotions and behavior. Then, take a few moments to get your emotions completely under control before getting behind the wheel. If you feel your emotional state is not conducive to driving, don’t drive.
• Plan ahead to reduce stress. Plan your route to avoid peak times and the worst congestion whenever possible, and allow plenty of time to reach your destination.
• Don’t take other drivers’ actions personally. Recognize that other motorists can be affected by emotions too, and set a good example by driving courteously. Accept that others either misjudged the situation or made a bad decision, while remaining present and mindful of any dangers or warning signs.
• Watch for signs of stress or aggression and lack of concentration. If you feel emotions are negatively influencing your driving decisions and behavior, pull over to a safe place and take a break.
• Maintain a healthy lifestyle. How you feel physically has a big influence on your ability to keep control of your emotions. So, be sure to eat right, exercise and get sufficient sleep, both on and off the road.
• Consult a professional. If it becomes increasingly difficult to manage emotions and/or behavior, consider talking to a professional who can offer suggestions to deal with these feelings in a safe way. By keeping your emotions in check, you’ll find that you’ve become a safer driver and you will also enjoy driving more than ever.