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How to control your emotions while driving

Published:Sunday | May 3, 2020 | 12:00 AMPaul Glenroy Messam - Contributor
Next-generation assists are available to help you de-stress while driving. Change lanes with a tap of a turn signal. Adaptive cruise can help steer, stop, and go in traffic, even slow for an offramp. Safety sensors can help protect your hearing before a crash.

An emotion is a strong feeling. It is a special human quality that can make life interesting, enjoyable, sad, or depressing. The Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary describes emotion as an “intense feeling”, while the MacMillan Dictionary says it’s “a feeling that you experience, for example, love, fear, or anger”.

“Strong emotion interferes with reasoning, which is important for the decision-making part of the driving task,” says Dr Valerie Freckleton, consultant psychologist. According to Freckleton, the effects of emotions on driving performance depend on how strongly the emotion grips a person and the effort the person makes to resist the effects. She explained that emotions constantly change. You can be very angry in one moment and much less angry a few moments later. Impatience and frustration may be linked with anger.

Emotions such as apathy, sorrow, and depression tend to lessen mental alertness and distract the driver from performing the driving task efficiently. A motor vehicle presents an opportunity for progress and prosperity towards emotional maturity. For many persons, the car is a means of satisfying many personal goals. A car can represent independence and the achievement of personal worth and self-esteem. This car protects the driver from criticism, comments, and the presence of other people. Driving, in general, can thus be a tremendously satisfying and an emotion-producing experience.


“As people mature, they learn to control emotions in most daily activities,” says Dr Hame Persaud. Difficult traffic conditions may lead to tension and frustration. A driver on the defensive path can and must quickly learn emotional control in order to drive safely, even under stressful conditions. Here are five techniques that could help a driver cope with emotions while driving on the defensive roadway.

The term ‘coping’ means being able to control emotions successfully. The techniques can surely add value to the coping process while driving.

Coping technique 1: Make a self-check. “Check yourself before you wreck yourself” was part of the mantra of the Advanced Driver Training Centre. If you are emotionally upset for whatever reason, before you drive, tell yourself, ‘I am angry, but I must not drive angrily.’ Drivers must endeavour to refrain from taking out their anger on other road users.

Coping technique 2: Do not drive when you are not in control of your emotions. It is frustrating when drivers on cross streets or roads move on their green light so they block another person’s movement.

Coping technique 3: Know yourself. Be honest with yourself about your emotional characteristics. Remember the old saying, ‘Honesty is the best policy.’ The Bible also speaks of the concept of ‘to thine own self be true’.

Coping technique 4: Drive in an organised, orderly manner. “Human beings are creatures of habit,” says Kanute Haire, director of road safety in the Ministry of Transport. “Drivers must learn and use the correct driving procedures until they become a habit. And so, a driver will then be more likely to take the proper action when emotions interfere.”

Coping technique 5: Drivers should endeavour to anticipate emotion-producing traffic problems. Mentally prepare to meet them as you plan your day, your route, and your various activities. Pause for a moment and say to yourself: ‘I know there might be delays during the day. There will be tired drivers hurrying home, to work, or for an appointment. Some drivers may be thoughtless and careless, but I will not let them upset me.’