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September 22, 2020

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road safety

‘1 in 5 motorists are more anxious on the road than pre-lockdown’

COVID-19 has caused motorist anxiety and stress levels to rocket, a study by IAM RoadSmart has discovered.

Smart motorwayAs local lockdowns continue to be enforced throughout the country and the risk increasing of a more widespread lockdown on the horizon, independent road safety charity IAM RoadSmart is concerned that increased anxiety, stress levels and diminished confidence levels in day-to-day driving could be triggered by a second prolonged period off the road, which could have road safety implications.

A recent survey of 1,000 people carried out by the charity uncovered that more than eight-in-10 motorists admitted to ‘suffering in silence’ after feeling they weren’t getting the support they needed to deal with feelings of anxiety brought on by the lockdown. This figure may rise in the event of further lockdowns, presenting an even greater road safety risk after a second spell of limited travelling.

The data also said that 65% felt worried about offering someone, like a colleague or friend, a lift in their car or on their motorcycle, from fear of contracting COVID-19.

Confidence and familiarity

Professor Alex Stedmon, a cognitive psychologist who works as an independent transport consultant at Open Road Simulation Ltd, is not surprised by the outcome, but highlighted that the skill of driving or riding is unlikely to have disappeared over lockdown, saying it that anxiety was more likely to be down to lack of confidence and familiarity.

Professor Stedmon said: “Simply put, the brain works on two levels. It has short-term or working memory, which has a small capacity and focusses on what you’re doing at that precise moment, and everything else is long-term memory, the place where we transfer the processes that make up our skills – such as driving.

“The mechanics of driving or riding aren’t going to evaporate over lockdown, but the confidence and familiarity of driving a car or riding a motorcycle might, which could lead to increased levels of anxiety.”

Richard Gladman, IAM RoadSmart’s Head of Driving and Riding Standards, said: “Confidence is a major factor in how we drive or ride, particularly for those who have been driving or riding less in recent months.

“A loss of confidence can increase anxiety which in turn puts us at greater risk of being involved in an incident on the road.

“The good news is there are some simple things we can all do to make sure we maintain our confidence and minimise the risk of anxiety creeping in when we are driving or riding. As the foundation to all safer driving and riding, these reflect a common-sense approach that is easy to make part of your everyday driving and riding.

“Through planning and preparation before your journey, staying focused on the road and avoiding distractions and by sharing the road considerately with all other road users, being mindful of our limits and taking time to get the basics right, we can all stay sharp and keep safe.”

Close up of bike and bicyclist in trafficFurther findings from the survey also reveal the different attitudes towards stress and anxiety levels in the UK regions.

The increased number of cyclists on the road is causing motorists in Scotland the most stress, with almost half (46%) of people admitting this, followed closely by 41% of people in the South East.

While 39% of people in Northern Ireland have found more pedestrians on the roads and pavements the greatest source of stress and increased anxiety levels since the start of lockdown.

In the West Midlands, 54% of motorists were most concerned about the standards of other people’s driving following a long break off the roads throughout lockdown, followed closely by 44% of motorists in the South West who also had the same concerns.

In Wales, 75% of motorists, and in London 67% of motorists, were most worried about catching COVID-19 from giving someone a lift in their car or on their bike.

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Graham Hendry
Graham Hendry
3 years ago

I don’t get this, the biggest stress from driving would surely be from volume of traffic. That’s gone for now, I’m loving these quieter roads. I regularly use the motorway network through the south of Glasgow City and never drop below 50mph, even at 8:30 in the morning. I’d be interested to know the age ranges of those interviewed?

3 years ago
Reply to  Graham Hendry

You seem to be quite lucky in this regard, I work 4 miles away from home a car journey takes between 15 and 30 minutes, a bus journey is not available as the nearest stop is 1.5 miles away from my employment stress comes from the volume of traffic and cyclists.
If a cycle lane is available why not use it ,it is there for your safety irrespective of cycle type,