Driving Stress Means No Happy New Year For Motorists

  • Driving increases stress levels in everyone
  • 1 in 4 say driving is most stressful thing they do
  • 48 per cent say driving stress affects their whole day

If you're dreading the return to work after New Year, you're not alone - driving officially stresses us all and returning to the commute is the most stressful activity many of us will undertake this week, according to research by intelligent driving experts, Trafficmaster.

Motorists say travelling by car is more stressful than financial or work pressures, Christmas shopping, going on a blind date or even meeting in-laws for the first time.  Overall, 42 per cent of drivers - equivalent to 15 million - feel stress behind the wheel.  Driving is most stressful for 25 per cent of respondents, more than financial worries (13%) a first day in a new job (11%), going on a blind date (4%) or meeting in-laws for the first time (4%).

The study also found half of sufferers can't even leave their tension in the car, with 48 per cent admitting road-based stress affects their whole day and 41 per cent saying this happens at least once a week.

Trafficmaster also worked with health psychologist, David Moxon, to measure stress levels, understand their effects and ways to reduce them.  Stress is most accurately measured by increased levels of a naturally occurring hormone, Cortisol.  The Trafficmaster study looked at driving with and without satellite navigation and found the following:

  • Driving provokes an unconscious increase in Cortisol levels
  • On individuals who were generally more 'highly strung', projected results show significant increases in Cortisol levels from driving
  • Cortisol levels double when driving without the aid of satellite navigation 
  • Driving without satellite navigation is nearly three times more stressful than a benchmark activity of shopping 

David Moxon said:  "Long term elevated exposure to Cortisol within the body can have a detrimental effect on health.  Studies have shown it can suppress the immune system and damage blood vessels.  There's no escape from pressures in daily driving, but planning journeys in advance and using in-car navigation significantly reduce stress levels," he concluded.

Philip Hale, spokesman for Trafficmaster, said: "We're particularly concerned at how the effects of driving stress last throughout many people's day, impacting their productivity and effectiveness at work and potentially having a negative effect on their overall health.  Being smart about your journeys can be critical in reducing stress in your life."

Regional Breakdowns

Trafficmaster has also identified that perceived stress is most prevalent overall in the South East and East Anglia, with 46 per cent of the regions' 3.5 million inhabitants admitting to getting stressed or suffering from road rage in their cars.  However, drivers in the North West experience road rage most often, with 47% of sufferers feeling the pressure at least once a week.

3 January 2007 Staff

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