You’ve heard it before: “don’t let your emotions get the best of you.” This becomes especially important when you get behind the wheel of a car. Studies show that driving in an emotional state is linked with a higher incidence of accident.

This is harder than it sounds, especially after a long day in the office where you may have had a difficult conversation with your boss, or a nerve-wracking presentation. To top it off, you now have to drive during the most congested time of day, along with all of the other tired commuters.

Aggressive driving behaviors

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that 33 percent of accidents caused by driver error were linked with aggressive driving behaviors such as:

  • Tailgating slower drivers
  • Swerving through traffic
  • Speeding through stop signs or red lights
  • Cutting off a driver attempting to merge into traffic

Next time you get in the car to drive to work or head home for the day, think about these tips. Being aware of your emotions can help you minimize their effect on your driving, which can help keep you and others safe on the road. Even if you are not prone to aggressive driving, AAA found that half of aggressive driving victims become aggressive in response.

Keep in mind that you may face criminal charges if law enforcement charges you with road rage. You may serve jail time, pay a high fine or appear in court.

Positive emotions can also affect your driving

Many people only associate negative emotions with dangerous driving; however, positive emotions can be just as distracting. Anything that takes your focus off of the road may increase your risk of incident.

If you just received a large bonus, or a promotion, you may be tempted to race home and tell your family. As hard as it is, enjoy the news outside of your car.

There are steps that you can take to keep safe

  • Do not drive if you are in a state of heightened emotion
  • Do not respond when faced with an aggressive driver
  • Do take a few deep breaths
  • Do evaluate your current emotional state
  • Do remain calm, and think about the consequences of emotional driving
  • Do pull over if you feel like you are not in control

If these steps do not help you stay calm, consider reaching out to a mental health professional who can provide you with appropriate coping mechanisms. If you would like more information on emotional driving, check out this guide to driving and emotions.