Lockdown living sees surge in anxious drivers

UK drivers feel more anxious on the road since the pandemic.

A poll of 2,000 UK motorists by this May found 25% of those who have had an accident since last year put it down to feeling out of practice.

One in eight say they are less confident driving than they were 12 months ago.

Vehicle use almost halved during the Covid-19 lockdowns, with drivers averaging only three days a week – down from five. 

Rebecca Needham, Road Safety Officer for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) said: “Over the last 18 months, many of us will have been driving less, and this will have impacted on our driving confidence significantly.

“This is a particular problem for those of us who are less experienced drivers, or drivers who did not use their vehicle often before the pandemic.

“When returning to driving, it is crucial to ensure that your vehicle is safe to drive and roadworthy.”

According to RoSPA, the key things to check before setting off are that:

  • You have enough fuel for your journey;
  • Oil and fluid levels are correct;
  • There is no visible damage to your vehicle;
  • All lights are working;
  • Your tires have enough tread, are inflated to the recommended pressures and are free from cuts and bulges.

Ms Needham added: “You will also need to consider your fitness to drive.

“RoSPA would recommend that all motorists consider taking a simple driving assessment, which is ideal for those who are looking for a little help and advice on how to improve their driving. 

“This will help to make your driving safer, less stressful and more enjoyable. Once you are settled back into driving, you could also consider taking some advanced driver training.”

Research by the University of Nottingham and King’s College London last year found stress, anxiety and depression became more common through the pandemic.

One in three people now show signs of moderate to severe depression, while more than one in four suffer from moderate to severe anxiety.

While anxiety incidence trebled at the height of lockdown, rates have continued to climb in London as workers return to the office.

As many as seven in ten Londoners now feel stressed, overworked and anxious as they adjust to pre-pandemic routines.

36% of Londoners also say they dread the day ahead “most nights of the week”.

Dr Lisa Dorn, Associate Professor of Driver Behaviour at Cranfield University, said: “Anxiety in the general population could be more than three times higher during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Typical bodily reactions during experiences of driving anxiety include heart palpitations, increased sweating and feeling short of breath as the anxiety state takes hold, either behind the wheel or just when thinking about driving”.

Dr Ian Petch, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Head of Psychology and Psychotherapies at South West London & St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust, advises readers: “Most people feel anxious or scared sometimes, but if it’s affecting your life there are things you can try that may help.

“Using calming breathing exercises, challenging your unhelpful thoughts and setting small, achievable targets are just some of the things you can do to help manage feelings of anxiety. 

“You can find more advice and practical tips on the Every Mind Matters website.

“If you’re finding it hard to cope and need more support, our talking therapies service offers free, effective and confidential treatment, and you don’t need to have a diagnosed mental health problem to refer yourself. 

Readers can contact the trust’s 24-hour Mental Health Crisis Line on 0800 028 8000, which offers emotional support and advice to adults and children affected by urgent mental health issues, any time of the day or night.

Image: Mourad Saadi via Unsplash

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