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How to handle strong emotions and driving

Published:Sunday | February 13, 2022 | 12:10 AMPaul Glenroy Messam - Contributor

Anger and strong emotions affect safe driving on our Jamaican roads. Emotions constantly change. You can be very angry one moment and much less angry a few minutes later. Strong emotions interfere with reasoning, which is important for the decision-making part of the defensive-driving task. Strong emotions, such as anger, block out or limit a person’s ability to reason.

The effects of emotions on driving performance depends on how strongly the emotion grips a person and on the effort that the person makes to resist the effects. “Emotions such as apathy, sorrow, or depression, tend to lessen mental alertness and distract the driver from performing the driving task well,” says Dr Valerie Freckleton, consultant psychologist.

A driver who is angry tires more quickly than a calm driver. The renowned singer Kenny Rogers’ song The Gambler says “you got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to run”.

“A driver can learn to recognise anger and choose to drop it,” Dr Freckleton adds. “Dropping it means consciously choosing not to act on it.” Anger is a natural feeling that shows you that something is wrong and can stir you to act against that which hurts you and others.

Poorly managed anger is the root of many serious physical, social, and emotional problems, including poor physical health, chronic disease, unhappy relationships, violence, and crime.

Here are some common causes of anger:

Frustration - You feel misunderstood or that no one cares what you think.

Mistreatment - You are misjudged, and people spread rumours or publicly cut you down.

Hurt, pride, or embarrassment - Someone makes fun of you or shames you.

Betrayal - A coworker, brethren or friend discloses your secrets.

Loss, grief- A loved one dies or you lose a job. You think, “I did nothing to deserve this!”

Need to be righr - You know exactly what to do, but other drivers, persons, insist on disagreeing with you.

Stress - You are constantly on a tight schedule and overloaded.

Impatience - The wait is much too long to end.

Boundary crossing - Other people tell you what to do or behave in ways that make you uncomfortable.

Fatigue - As a round-the-clock driver, you never get enough sleep and are often on edge.

What you do with anger can make a big difference in the scheme of defensive driving, which is aimed at saving lives, time, and cash. Here are some ways to handle anger.

Cut Anger 1: Ignore it. “I ignore the person and walk away … and it works like a charm,” says Coleen Clarke of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information.

Cut Anger 2: Stuff it in the bin- As the old adage says, “if you cannot say anything nice, do not say anything at all.”

Cut Anger 3: Social triangle- Talk about your anger with trusted friends, family, and colleagues.

Cut Anger 4: Control - Encourage persons to live up to their expectations.

Cut Anger 5: Be assertive - Being assertive means affirming yourself by expressing anger clearly while respecting the other person.

Cut Anger 6: Stay relaxed - And use the time to think about what to do based on possible consequences.

Cut Anger 7: Withdraw - Walk away from relationships in which you experience anger.


The Book of Proverbs clearly states that “a fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.”