Study: Work-Related Stress Makes Drivers Accident-Prone

Stressed about that upcoming meeting, an irritating co-worker or your boss breathing down your neck? All of these can contribute to the chances you’ll be involved in a car accident – if you don’t manage that

That’s according to a new study published in the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology. Study authors note that while there are a great number of crashes that occur during work commutes (particularly during the rush hours in the morning and evening), there hasn’t been much by way of studies on employee behavior while commuting by motor vehicle. Researchers say understanding these antecedents (or what is happening just prior) to the crash are important to understanding how we can curb them. Even those studies that do exist are mostly looking at demographic variables (e.g., are they truck drivers or office workers? Are they under 21 or elderly?) and physical work-related stressors. But of course, those aren’t the only factors.

This study focused on the data that’s missing from previous research by analyzing the connection between work-related psychological stressors and unsafe commuting behavior. Researches analyzed crash data involving 216 workers in a large manufacturing plant at two separate points in time. What they discovered was that “abusive supervision” – i.e., a difficult boss – and “work-family conflict” – were both positively correlated with unsafe behavior while commuting to and front work. 

Research from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates the average travel time to work is about 26 minutes nationwide. An interactive map by WNYC shows that in Charlotte, North Carolina, the average commute time is about 28 minutes. In Greensboro, it’s approximately 23 minutes. In Asheville, it’s about 23 minutes, and in Winston-Salem, it’s around 24 minutes. That’s a significant amount of time many people are spending on the roads each day, and it would make sense that you are thinking about work during those times. The study found that the more pre-occupied with work you are, the more perilous your commute. This makes sense because you’re probably distracted by your worries.

The behavior most closely correlated with risk of a car accident to and from work was poor work-life balance. These individuals were more likely text or be on the phone while driving. They were also more likely to overtake other vehicles traveling the inside lane and to follow other vehicles too closely. Having a terrible boss was a big problem too. And perhaps what is especially concerning is that not only were these workers more likely to engage in these reckless behaviors on the road, they were more likely to deem them normal and acceptable.

Those who have grappled with stressful jobs probably fully understand this. When tensions are running high at work or at home, the commute often seems like the best – and sometimes only – time to yourself to mentally run through conversations or conflicts that are stressful. But we also know that distracted driving doesn’t always necessarily involve a phone. It’s about what’s on your mind. That’s why you can be driving for miles thinking about something else and suddenly “come to” and not remember exactly how you got to where you are. One study by the National Safety Council calls this “cognitive distraction.” It’s the reason why the agency advocates for banning not just texting while driving (which takes a driver’s eyes and at least one hand away from the road), but also talking on the phone – even with a wireless headset – because the person’s attention is taken away from the road, even if he or she is watching it with hands on the wheel.

Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

You’re More Likely to Get In a Car Accident If You’re Stressed About Work, Jan. 18, 2017, By Charlotte Hilton Andersen,

More Blog Entries:

Report: Winter Storm Spurred 260 North Carolina Car Accidents, Jan. 18, 2017, Greensboro Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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