Managing driver stress

Stressed drivers

While lockdown begins to ease, it’s still important to recognise our increased reliance on home deliveries. For those who are out driving for work, this has meant an increased pressure to deliver more parcels on time, which can lead to stress and anxiety out on the roads. What’s more, with an increase in the number of people taking to cycling and exercising outdoors¹, there are more vulnerable roads users to be mindful of.

Stress can affect how your drivers feel physically and emotionally, as well as impairing their judgement and reactions, so following best practise in terms of stress-reduction can have a real-life impact on the safety of our roads as traffic levels begin to increase. Below are some of our top tips for helping to reduce stress when getting behind the wheel.

Warning signs of stress
A good first step for your drivers is to recognise the warning signs of stress. Stress could bring some or all of these:

  • Becoming easily irritated with colleagues, friends or family
  • Feeling distracted, forgetful or moody
  • Having racing thoughts
  • Not being able to ‘switch off’
  • Becoming quiet and withdrawn
  • Under or overeating
  • Smoking more, drinking more alcohol or taking drugs
  • Tense muscles
  • Headaches
  • Feeling sick
  • Not sleeping well / insomnia
  • Getting ill more often

Here are a few tips to give to your drivers on how to reduce stress before stepping into a vehicle:

  • Wait until you feel calm, collected and well enough to head out on your journey. Driving itself can be stressful, especially in rush hour, so if you are already stressed this is likely to make matters worse.
  • Try mindfulness and deep breathing before getting behind the wheel. You don’t have to be spiritual to benefit from mindfulness and meditation – anyone can meditate and it’s been shown to reduce stress and anxiety.
  • If you’re feeling ill from stress with headaches or sickness, make sure you feel well enough before you drive. Drink plenty of water and get some fresh air.
  • Write down a list of the things that are stressing you out and set yourself some time to tackle them later on – sometimes writing your worries down and making time to sort them out helps clear your mind.
  • If you’re having trouble sleeping due to stress then make sure you aren’t too tired to drive. IAM RoadSmart advises if you feel sleepy whilst behind the wheel, find a safe place to pull over and stop – not on the hard shoulder of a motorway. Research suggests that almost 20% of accidents on major roads are sleep-related so don’t drive if you feel sleepy. See our tips on avoiding driver fatigue here.
  • Tell someone you trust how you feel. Sometimes opening up about our problems to loved ones can make all the difference and they can even help you find solutions. As they say, a problem shared is a problem halved.

For more information about how to handle stress visit www.ben.org.uk, an independent charity which provides support for life to the people of the automotive industry.

¹Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-53105020

Peter Williams

Author Peter Williams

Marketing Executive at IAM RoadSmart

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