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Can Stress Affect Driving Enough to Cause an Accident?

When you think of auto accidents, you probably think of tangible causes such as the weather, distracted driving, and the like. What you might not think about, however, is physiological causes.

Physiological stress, in particular, can have a seismic impact on a person’s state of being. It can make a person nervous, distracted, and irrational, to name just a few characteristics.

That said, can stress and driving lead to car accidents? Can it result in a car accident injury? We’re going to dive into that topic below, helping you determine whether you’re fit to be on the road.

Let’s begin!

Can Stress Lead to Auto Accidents?

Put simply, yes, stress can lead to auto accidents. Stress is defined as physical or mental tension. When a person is in a state of tension, they’re not operating at the max capacity.

As such, they could very easily do things they wouldn’t normally do. For instance, they could turn in front of another driver who’s coming up on them fast. Or, they could hit the gas pedal when they would normally ease back.

It’s important to note, though, that if your stress results in you causing an accident, you won’t be able to use stress as an excuse to escape liability. You will still be held liable for causing the accident.

In What Ways Can Stress Lead to Auto Accidents?

As noted above, stress can absolutely lead to auto accidents. To better illustrate this, we’re going to discuss how exactly it does so. Stress:

Impairs Your Decision Making

First and foremost, stress impairs your decision-making. When you’re under stress, you’re essentially being overwhelmed by many thoughts at once. If you’re overwhelmed by many thoughts, you won’t be able to make quick decisions on the road.

Let’s say that you don’t notice your turn until the last second. In a state of non-stress, you might just drive past it and turn around. In a stressed state, however, you might try to slam on your brakes and make the turn, thus resulting in a car accident.

Slows Your Reaction Time

Not only does stress impair your decision making but it also slows your reaction time. Because your mind is stuck on other things, you’re not able to process stimuli as quickly. As such, you are much slower to react when unexpected things come your way.

So, let’s say that someone slams their brakes on in front of you. In a non-stressed state, you would respond almost immediately. In a stressed state, however, you’re more apt to wait a second or two. That additional 1 or 2 seconds could easily result in an accident.

Results in Road Rage

Another way that stress can lead to auto accidents is that it can result in road rage. When you’re stressed, you’re more apt to get angry at other drivers.

As such, you might, for instance, tailgate a driver that just cut you off. Or, you might give an offensive hand gesture to a driver, resulting in that driver driving in a way that puts you in a dangerous situation. These situations could very easily end in an accident.

Creates Physical Impairment

Oftentimes, when mental stress becomes extreme enough, it ends up manifesting itself in physical symptoms. These run the gamut from headaches to light sensitivity to general fatigue and more.

Of course, all of these physical impairments have the potential to negatively affect one’s driving. It wouldn’t be a surprise if they resulted in an auto accident.

Keeping Stress to a Minimum

As you can see, stress most certainly leads to auto accidents. The issue, of course, is that, at certain times, we have to drive in order to tend to specific responsibilities. So, we can’t always refrain from driving just because we’re stressed out.

This is why we must make decisions that keep our stress levels to a minimum. Some ways of keeping stress levels low include:

Exercising on a Regular Basis

Exercise isn’t just good for your physical health but also for your mental well-being. Aerobic exercise literally reduces the amount of stress hormones in the body, thereby helping a person to feel more calm.

So, if you want to keep stress levels low, you need to be exercising regularly. Ideally, you’ll exercise 3 to 5 times a week for 30 minutes to 90 minutes at a time.

Getting Ample Sleep

Driving when you’re tired is always a dangerous prospect. Not only could it cause you to fall asleep behind the wheel but it could also result in you experiencing stress while you drive.

This is why it’s important to get ample sleep night in and night out. Try to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep daily.

Eat Right

Eating right is also key to maintaining stress levels. This includes keeping a balanced diet according to the food pyramid. It also includes keeping things in moderation, such as alcohol and junk food.

Sugary and processed foods, in particular, tend to cause stress. So, only eat these sparingly, if you can help it.

Keep a Good Social Life

Human beings are, indeed, social creatures. If we don’t socialize on a regular basis, we tend to feel depressed and, well, stressed. Our anxiety levels spike and our moods plummet.

So, keep a good social life. Hang out with your friends regularly and make sure your life is more than work.

Stress and Driving Are a Bad Combo

While stress isn’t one of the most obvious car accident causes, it’s a cause nonetheless. As such, as much as possible, you should avoid stress and driving.

Were you recently involved in a stress-related car accident? Looking to file a claim over injuries? If so, it would be wise to speak with a car accident attorney.

An auto accident attorney can help you obtain a settlement, helping to pay for your hospital bills and other related expenses.

Looking for Tampa accident lawyers? Look no further than RHINO LawyersContact us now for a free consultation!


In short, after a car accident, you may not know your rights. Above all, don’t struggle through the process alone. Actually, our personal injury team is here to help you with any legal needs you might have regarding your accident.

Lastly, let RHINO Lawyers answer your questions and review the facts of your case with a Free Consultation. So, get started by completing the “Free Instant Case Evaluation” or by calling us any time, day or night, at 844.RHINO.77.