Driver anxiety peaks on Aucklands roads says Survey

Dr Joanne Taylor

Auckland, June 25, 2018

Two thirds of New Zealand drivers experience mild to severe anxiety when they are behind the wheel with fear of road rage from others among the causes, a Massey University study has found.

Dr Joanne Taylor, a specialist in driver behaviour based in the School of Psychology, said that this is the first study of driver-anxiety among the general population.

Of the 441 people who responded to a survey sent to a random sample of 1500 adults registered to vote, 52% reported mild anxiety and 16% felt moderate to severe driving anxiety.

Just under a third 31%- said that they experienced no driving anxiety.

The study, The Extent and Characteristics of Driver Anxiety, has just been published in the Transportation Research online journal.

Surprising results

Dr Taylor was surprised at the reportedly high level of driving anxiety in New Zealand that her survey exposes.

The clinical psychologist is also concerned at finding that few people seek help in overcoming it as driving anxiety can have a major impact on peoples lives, preventing people from being able to drive to work or visit whanau and other activities.

Anxiety can also lead to exaggerated safety behaviour such as slow driving and uncertainty when changing lanes which may create further dangers on the road.

About the Survey

Participants, aged 18 to 87, were asked about their driving histories, including when and how they learnt to drive; how far they drove each week and whether they were currently driving. They were also asked to rate their anxiety levels about being on the receiving end of road rage, and their feelings of safety when driving.

Having a car crash and dying, and concerns about the safety of other peoples driving ability were the greatest fears of those who considered themselves to be anxious drivers, according to a previous study.

Later driver response

Those who learned to drive later in life were also more prone to experiencing driver anxiety. Dr Taylor also stresses that driving anxiety and fear are not solely the domain of post-crash psychological phenomena.

Anxiety about driving is very treatable and she would like to see more availability of online self-help programmes to address this, Dr Taylor said, suspecting that most people do not seek help to deal with driving anxiety because of the same stigma and discrimination feared by those with mental distress.

Of those participating in the survey, most (88%) were of European descent and 5% were Mori. There were 51% of the sample who had a post-secondary or tertiary qualification, and 44% were men.

Dr Taylor, whose PhD (2002) was on Understanding driving-related fear, has been researching the psychology of driving behaviour for a number of years.

As well as conducting studies and surveys on driving behaviour, including driving anxiety, she is also interested in issues such as driving anger.

A complex phenomenon

Her research programme has advanced understandings of the prevalence of driving anxiety and has expanded awareness that driving anxiety is a complex phenomenon that is not confined to the post-motor vehicle accident experience.

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Photo Caption:

  1. Dr Joanne Taylor
  2. Aucklands gridlock can be testy

(Pictures from Massey News)

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