Is Driving While Emotional a Form of Distracted Driving?

Published on Oct 14, 2022 at 5:57 pm in Car Accidents.

Roadway deaths in Maryland have dropped by 48 percent since 2011. At the same time, distracted driving is responsible for 45 percent of all Maryland vehicle crashes. Eighty-five percent of crashes in Washington and Baltimore now involve distracted drivers.

Researchers believe that over 30 percent of roadway wrecks result from driver error. These collisions could be avoided if people focused on driving instead of distractions and kept their emotions in check on the road.

What Is Emotional Driving?

Intense emotions like rage, sorrow, pain, distress, terror, and panic can be as dangerous as texting while driving or driving while intoxicated. Road rage is especially perilous because it makes drivers want to hurt others.

Emotions affect driving. If you feel upset, it can cause you to respond inappropriately to other drivers. It can lead to aggressive, fearful, and risky driving behavior that you would not normally engage in.

A recent study conducted by researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) found that driving under the influence of strong emotions can be as risky as driving while distracted.

The researchers gauged the effects of extreme sadness, anger, and agitation on driving safety. They found that emotional drivers are 10 times more likely to be involved in a crash.

Feelings of anxiety, despair, and depression are liabilities that many drivers carry with them on the road. These painful states of awareness can completely monopolize a driver’s attention and prevent that driver from making split-second decisions about events occurring on the road.

If a quick safety maneuver becomes necessary, an emotional driver might not even realize there’s a problem until it’s too late.

What Is Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving occurs when you remove your attention from the roadway and pay attention to something else. Driving while distracted is now considered the number one cause of vehicle wrecks.

It’s not always easy to keep your eyes on the road. There are diversions inside the car and outside the car, all of them vying for your attention.

The researchers found that using a smartphone to send a text or make a call while driving are especially dangerous activities that can increase crash risk by between nine and 12 percent.

It’s not just smartphones that distract drivers and cause accidents. Eating or drinking at the wheel, applying makeup, arguing with passengers, and trying to get items that are out of reach are all asking for trouble.

Adjusting the GPS, interacting with your car’s touch screen, adjusting the climate control, and searching for radio stations, especially with unruly dogs in the car, can turn a distracted driving episode into a fatal disaster.

Drivers under the age of 30 are involved in almost 35 percent of all distracted driving accidents. Nearly a quarter of distracted drivers are between the ages of 21 and 29.

Fifty-six percent of distracted drivers are men. Eighty percent of those who die in distracted driver collisions are also men.

Distracted driving doubles a driver’s risk for an accident. Nevertheless, drivers continue to engage in distracted driving at least half of the time they are behind the wheel.

What Researchers Have Learned About Emotions and Distracted Driving

The VTTI researchers examined the effects of four variables:

  • Driver error
  • Impairment
  • Fatigue
  • Distraction

What they found was that these variables played a significant role in distracted driving collisions nearly ninety percent of the time. However, the researchers were surprised to discover the extent to which strong emotions also impact driving performance.

Drivers experiencing strong, visible emotions had a tenfold increase in crash risk compared to other drivers in the study. These findings support the conclusion that distracted driving and emotional driving both affect driving performance and crash frequency.

Dealing With Road Rage

Hot-tempered motorists may zip between lanes of traffic and tailgate anyone who isn’t moving fast enough. These drivers report being in more near-smashups and getting more speeding tickets. Studies suggest that they are more likely to misuse alcohol and drugs.

Furious drivers take more risks while driving. They may exceed the speed limit by 20 mph. The researchers found that exceeding the speed limit increases the risk of collision 13 times.

Maryland Distracted Driving Laws

Under Maryland state law, the use of handheld cell phones is against the law as is texting while driving. “A driver of a motor vehicle that is in motion may not use the driver’s hands to use a handheld telephone other than to initiate or terminate a wireless telephone call or to turn on or turn off the handheld telephone.”

Have you been injured by an ill-tempered Maryland driver? Belsky & Horowitz, LLC can help. Call us to schedule a free review of your case.



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