No stress: Driving on straight roads and turning left

ALMOST everything stresses drivers out.

Road works, roundabouts, city driving, angry drivers, distracted drivers and older drivers.

These are just a few of the things senior University of Sunshine Coast research fellow Bridie Scott-Parker found raised stress levels.

Dr Scott-Parker said road stress could affect the way people drove and lead to long-term health problems.

"Research has shown that stress can cause major health problems over time. If people drive an hour to work, then work, then drive an hour home, suddenly that could be nine or 10 stressful hours every day," she said.

"People don't realise driving is causing them stress. They think road rage - people getting out of their cars and jumping on the bonnets - but that's the extreme.

"There's lots of stressful responses to driving before that."

Dr Scott-Parker's research put people in a simulation of Sunshine Coast streets including suburban, city and major roads.

Drivers were on the road with simulations of a tail-gating, abusive, angry driver; a distracted mobile phone using driver; a pretty young female driver; and an old lady barely doing the speed limit.

What parts of driving didn't stress out motorists? Driving on straight roads with no traffic around or turning left.

Dr Scott-Parker said stress affected people differently. For some motorists being stressed made them alert, but others became distracted and stopped thinking about the road.

She said one participant tried to stay behind to fight the abusive driver, and another attempted to get the phone number of the pretty girl.

"Stress isn't something people let go of immediately and that means it keeps affecting them on the road and then during their day," she said.

Dr Scott-Parker said the next step of her research was to find how to intervene to prevent or reduce stress.

"Maybe it is simplifying road infrastructure, or simplifying road rules, or a combination of both," she said.

RACQ spokeswoman Lauren Ritchie said courteous driving and making roads as simple as possible for drivers was the key to reducing stress.

"It's a courtesy thing ultimately. As a driver, driving courteously is very important to keeping stress levels down," she said.

"But also things like road works signs being removed from sides of the road when road works aren't happening. Those kinds of little things can really frustrate drivers."

Queensland road safety minister Mark Bailey rather than change road systems, drivers should look inwards to reduce stress behind the wheel.

Mr Bailey said driving responsibly was the first step in de-stressing the state's roads.

"It's got to start with ourselves. For us to keep within the speed limit, put the phone in the glove box, make sure we don't tailgate, give ourselves plenty of distance, treat other people with courtesy, more goodwill on the roads every time, we drive better," he said.

"The more we spread good driving habits the more I think other people will also pick up those habits. We share the good energy rather than the stressful energy."


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