Much emphasis is placed on the dangers of texting and driving and also making cellular phone calls while driving! We tend to think of distractions as only those physical actions that take our hands away from the steering wheel and our eyes off the roads. An often neglected distraction is however emotional distractions that reduces our ability to pay attention to the road, road users and traffic conditions. We would like to share some insights on Stress as a Driver Distraction , prepared by Hayley Gillman, Executive Director of Business Optimization Institute:
“Stress is a part of everyday life, brought on by less-than-ideal situations or perceived threats that foster feelings of anxiety, anger, fear, excitement, or sadness. Physiologically, stress is considered to be anything that challenges the body’s ability to function in its usual fashion”
We live in a society where immediate self gratification is the norm. Fast foods, fast cars, fast lives! We are continuously rushing to meet deadlines, attend meetings, playing taxi to the kids or having to move house etc. All these work and social pressures play a significant role in the raised stress levels that assail modern man today. High stress levels fuel aggression and increased incidents of road rage. It’s not uncommon for people to “distress” by consuming copious amounts of alcohol. High alcohol consumption leads to other social catastrophes when many in South Africa insist driving home whilst their alcohol levels are well above the legal limit. How would you feel if it was your daughter..your brother..your mother who lost their lives due to some irresponsible motorist whose motto is: “One more for the road”!
Evidently there is a direct link between stress and motor incidents. There seems to be a knock on effect:
- Stress, leads to increased alcohol consumption = higher potential for accidents on our roads
- Stress , leads to increased aggression = higher likelihood of road rage
The statistics are:
- Approximately 1.3 million people die annually around the world due to road accidents. 3,200 die daily on a global scale
- South Africa contributes to 40 road accident deaths per day and 14,000 annually.
- South Africa’s road mortality rate is one of the worst in the world… (28 per 100 000 people)
- Alcohol abuse is the biggest fatal accident contributor on weekends. It accounts for 65% of all fatalities.
(Stats obtained from Gilberto Martins’, Swedish Embassy Presentation, 2013)
These statistics are alarming! What can WE do to reduce the high fatality rate on our roads? First and foremost: OBEY the rules of the road (i.e., adhere to speed limits, don’t overtake on solid lines, do regular maintenance on your vehicle and don’t drink and drive!)
For purpose of this article we will deal with how to reduce the incidents of drunken driving and road rage. Sounds impossible? Not when we know the correlation between these factors is stress related.
Let’s deconstruct the stressors in our lives and find practical solutions on how to alleviate some of these stressors:
GENERAL LIFE STESSORS
These include getting married or divorced, losing a loved one, starting a new job or moving house or driving home in rush hour traffic! Problems at home or work, or an illness can certainly lead to increased stress levels. One way that people may choose to cope with stress is by turning to alcohol. Persons with an alcohol use disorder (AUD) may be more at risk for these types of stressors. Increased alcohol consumption may cause problems with personal relationships, at work or get one on the wrong side of the law.
As cited by the National Institute of Health, drinking is associated with relaxation and positive feelings… at least in the short term. When stress is ongoing and people continue to try and deal with its effects by drinking alcohol, a host of problems arise including medical and psychological problems and increased risk for alcohol dependence.
TIPS ON HOW TO DEAL WITH GENERAL LIFE STRESSORS:
- When it comes to work related stressors: Delegate, delegate, delegate! If this is not a possibility speak to your boss if you feel the load is more than you can handle
- Directly after work, take 10 deep, long breaths, tense your shoulders and release at least 4 times and stretch as high as you can. Your colleagues will probably think you have lost the plot, but believe me you will be much more relaxed and ready to take on the traffic
- Exercise! You don’t have to join a gym but keep moving… studies have shown that walking 20 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week will help alleviate stress and reduce the likelihood of having a heart attack
- It is a well known fact that most humans don’t breathe correctly. Our breathing is short and shallow, thus not allowing sufficient oxygen to the brain and ultimately making us sluggish and irritable. Yoga and meditation are excellent de-stressors. Look for a meditation centre in your area and attend once a week until you are able to breathe correctly on your own
- Give back. Become involved in charity initiatives or causes that resonate with you. When you start focusing your time on doing something that helps someone or something else, it has a profound effect on your psyche and stress levels. It makes you appreciate what you have in life and live with more gratitude
- Alternatively enroll in a Stress Management course. These are run by experts in the field who can provide a step by step guide to help alleviate stress and how to deal with various stressors that confront us on a daily basis
- If however you have tried all or most of the above techniques and still feel overwhelmed, anxious and hopeless, then immediately consult with a professional counselor or psychologist. Often speaking things through puts things in perspective and gives you clarity of mind. Many corporate institutions have these facilities as part of the company benefits – so why not make use of them!
- Be aware of your alcohol consumption and limit your daily intake. If you have overindulged on occasion, be responsible and let a family member or friend take you home. Alternatively make use of the many “take me home services” that are currently available. Most of these are a complementary service that is offered through your bank or insurance broker.
There are no ‘quick fixes’ and therapeutic ‘magic bullets’. As with most complex problems which at first sight appear insoluble, the combination of action, based on pertinent knowledge provides us with an opportunity.
I will leave you to ponder on powerful words from highly acclaimed stress expert and published author Prof. Mark Gillman:
“It is as if we are on a rapidly spinning wheel that increases its speed with each revolution. Something has to ‘give’ – either we put the brakes on and slow the wheel down or we develop methods which will enable us to withstand the frenetic pace of modern life. We are no longer victims, subject to the vagaries of our body’s reactions to stress – we are able to take control. Control gives us the ability to diminish the negative and maximize the positive aspects of our own unique stress reactions “
Reduce road incidents by understanding the signs of stress and controlling its effects. The reduction of stress in our daily lives will have a profound impact on our roads, so stop stressing!
For more information about stress management courses visit Business Optimization Training Institute