Distracted driving more than doubles a driver’s crash risk, and emotional driving increases the risk by tenfold.

Examples of Strong Emotions That Can Lead to Increased Auto Accident Risk

Just as drugs and alcohol do, strong emotions like rage, worry, panic, and anguish can impair a person’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. According to a study by researchers at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, the risk of a car accident can be up to 10 times greater when a driver is operating under the influence of strong emotions.

Running Late

Many people rush out of the house and hop in their car, late for work, without considering how their emotions may affect their ability to drive safely. Being in a hurry can impair your driving judgment and reaction times. Even if you’re late, sometimes you should take a minute to calm down by pulling off the side of the road.

Emotional Distractions

Feelings of worry, sadness, or anxiety while driving can distract you and put yourself and others in danger. Try to suppress those feelings until you reach your destination. Listen to music or focus intently on your driving techniques to help distract yourself from troubling thoughts.

Bad Judgment

Drivers wrapped up in their emotional state may make poor judgment calls and respond more slowly to hazards. Situations that would otherwise be noticed immediately, such as a stalled car or debris on the road, may not even register with someone who is distracted by emotions.

Road Rage

Not surprisingly, drivers are more likely to express road rage when their emotions are running high. Overreaction due to feelings of rage puts other drivers and innocent bystanders at risk of bodily harm. If you’re on the receiving end of a bout of road rage, distance yourself from the other driver by pulling over, keeping the doors locked, and keeping the windows shut.

Positive Emotions

Negative emotions aren’t the only ones that can cause split-focus driving. Getting exciting news or celebrating a happy event can also cause you to exceed the speed limit, neglect small details, and take more risks than you normally would.


If you make a mistake behind the wheel that affects another driver, do your best to communicate regret that the situation occurred by mouthing an apology to show the other driver that you meant no harm.

How to Drive More Safely When Your Feelings Are Strong

The National Highway Safety Administration offers great advice for controlling your emotions while driving.

  • Focus on pleasant thoughts.
  • Take slow, deep breaths to soothe racing thoughts.
  • Wait until you are out of the car before trying to solve your problem.
  • Get a good night’s sleep before driving to put yourself in a better frame of mind.
  • To reduce unnecessary stress about running late, plan for unexpected delays to reduce unnecessary stress.
  • If you can’t calm down, pull over for a while. Resume driving only after you have your emotions under control.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, contact personal injury attorney Dan Rosen at (303) 454-8000 or (800) ROSEN-911 to schedule your free initial consultation to discuss the details of your case.

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