How mental health and emotional wellbeing can affect driving

wellness and driving

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week (10 May – 16 May 2021) which is an annual event hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, trying to encourage people to talk about all aspects of mental health as well as to provide support in those in need.

During the pandemic, many have experienced increased levels of stress and uncertainty. So it’s important to sustain good mental health at such challenging times.

Poor mental health increases the risks of accidents, your safety and the safety of others. With this in mind, we are going to discuss how stress and fatigue can affect our driving and how to minimise the risks.

Stress can have a negative effect on our lives, and on our driving abilities. It can influence our decision making process, ability to react reasonably in certain situations, and make us drive more offensively.

Driving whilst stressed is dangerous, as you may become more prone to execute dangerous driving habits such as tailgating or speeding, which can lead to an accident, or a penalty plus a few points on your driving licence if being caught.

Learning to manage stress is important. If you are upset, try to avoid driving and give yourself time to get where you are going.  You can go for a short walk and get some fresh air, or try deep breathing before heading out to your journey.

Planning your route beforehand is also recommended especially if you are going on a long journey, as the thought of getting stuck in traffic and being late can stress you out. Stress can also make you feel sick or give you a headache, so don’t drive if you are not feeling well. Drink water and wait until you feel well enough to go behind the wheel.

You can also check out our tips provided in our guide to help make the roads a happier and kinder place to be.

Fatigue is a major contributory factor in crashes in the UK, with too little sleep radically affecting driver attention, awareness, reaction time and ability to control the vehicle. Driving tired can be as dangerous as driving under the influence – it slows down your reaction and decreases your awareness.

Some of the signs of fatigue include:

  • Difficulty to concentrate
  • Feeling your eyelids heavy
  • Yawning
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Moodiness
  • Muscle weakness

If you start feeling tired whilst driving – stop in a safe place and take a break. If you are going on a long journey – plan it, take regular breaks and get as much rest as possible before setting off on the journey. Bear in mind that some medications can also cause drowsiness and reduce your ability to drive safely. Always read the medication’s leaflet and check if it will affect your driving abilities.

Also, if you don’t feel confident to drive on a long journey alone, take another driver with you whereas possible, and make sure to stop every 2 hours.

Your mental health is as important as your physical health, so take care of your wellbeing. Both fatigue and stress can be interdependent and related to sleep problems. To find out more information about how to fall asleep faster and sleep better, read the NHS article.

If you need more information about mental health visit: Mental Health UK – Forward Together (

Do you work, or have you worked for the automotive industry? Then you can also check which is a charity that supports people of the automotive industry.