Can Panic and Stress Lead to Car Accidents?

angry driver

Anything that interferes with a driver’s thought processes could lead to a car accident. The effects of panic and stress on virtually any driver make it more likely for an accident to occur.

Panic is especially bad because it means you have lost control of your emotions and likely are not thinking clearly. When you panic while driving, it can affect your driving inputs and cause an overreaction.

Your panicked reaction could cause an accident or prevent you from avoiding one caused by another driver or something else. A panicked driver does not have full and safe control of the vehicle, and a dangerous traffic condition often causes panic.

When many drivers think they are about to collide with another vehicle or an object, they panic. Panicked driving often ensures an accident happens instead of enabling the driver to avoid it.

Accident-Causing Behaviors Due to Panic

A panicked driver could overreact and lose control of the vehicle. A sudden surge of adrenaline might cause the driver to engage in one of the many common forms of panicked driving behavior.

Among the more common ways in which a panicked driver overreacts include:

  • Oversteering
  • Stomping on the brake pedal
  • Misjudging other drivers
  • Colliding with a vehicle while avoiding another one
  • Swerving suddenly

Oversteering and swerving suddenly could cause the tires to lose traction and send the vehicle into an uncontrolled spin. You might miss the initial vehicle but cause a collision with another one nearby.

Stomping on the brake pedal also is a common type of panicked driving that causes a loss of traction and control. Panic stops are why anti-lock braking systems (ABS) exist.

The ABS system prevents drivers from locking up the wheels during panic stops. The system also helps to prevent loss of traction on slippery road surfaces.

Misjudging what another driver is doing also can lead to panicked driving. If you think a driver is going to turn in a particular direction, you might try to pass on the other side. If that driver does not turn as expected, you might panic.

There are many more ways in which a panicked driver might cause or contribute to an accident. Ultimately, they all result in the same dangerous outcome.

Panicked Driving Is Similar to Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is a leading cause of roadway accidents, fatalities, and personal injury. When you panic, you are as good as distracted and not paying full attention to road and traffic conditions.

Panic and stress greatly impede drivers’ thought processes and raise the potential for an accident occurring. It is no different than becoming distracted by a cellphone or something else while driving.

Panic and stress can interfere with a driver’s ability to:

  • Making decisions rapidly
  • Focusing on driving
  • Thinking clearly
  • Judging your reaction

Panicking often results in tunnel vision that makes it harder to see the full picture and think clearly while driving. Impaired thinking, much like impaired driving, makes it harder to react in a reasonable manner to changing traffic and road conditions.

Panic also could have a contributing factor: stress. The combination of stress and panic can make it much more likely for an accident to occur.

How Stress Affects Driving Ability

Stress and anxiety could distract drivers and increase the potential for an accident occurring. A highly stressed driver who is experiencing anxiety is less likely to focus on driving and more likely to drive in an aggressive or irresponsible manner.

You likely have heard that people should not drive while angry. The reason is because an angry driver is much more likely to drive in an aggressive manner, violate traffic laws, and cause an accident.

Angry or otherwise stressed drivers also are likely to have something that is bothering them and is occupying their thoughts. A driver who is not focusing on driving safely and responsibly because of a stressful matter is less likely to pay attention to road and traffic conditions.

An angry driver also is more likely to exceed the speed limit, pass on the right, and run red lights and stop signs. Angry drivers could commit many other moving violations that endanger others, including driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Aggressive driving is against the law in Maryland and could result in more than just traffic tickets. Road rage is a criminal offense in Maryland and might earn time in jail for offenders.

Contributory Negligence in Maryland

Maryland is one of the few states that use the contributory negligence rule. That means you cannot collect compensation from the other driver if you contributed to the accident, even if you were only partly at fault. If an insurer or a court decides you were partly at fault, any settlement amount could be in jeopardy because of contributory negligence.

What to Do if You Become Angry or Stressed While Driving

It is important to try to remain calm and relatively relaxed while driving. If you feel angry or stressed prior to driving, you might want to take a break to cool down.

While taking a break, you might consider exercising if you have gym equipment available or even just do some jumping jacks or go for a short jog. If you enjoy meditation or yoga, a brief session of either might help you to calm down and focus better.

Even taking a short nap or just resting your eyes for 15 or 20 minutes could help you to calm down. Maybe you can think through what is bothering you and take better control of the situation mentally before entering your vehicle.

If you cannot calm down and you are with a spouse, family member, or a friend who is in a relatively good frame of mind, that person might do the driving.

You also might be in a reasonably good mood when you start driving, but something occurs that makes you stressed or angry.

If you become upset while driving, you might consider stopping and taking a break to cool down. Doing some shopping or stopping for a meal might help you to regain your composure before continuing your drive.

Handling an Accident Caused by a Stressed or Panicked Driver

Even when you are in the best of moods, it is possible for another driver who is angry or stressed to cause an accident that might send you to the emergency room.

Whether you suffer no injuries or need immediate medical attention, you should do your best to gather evidence that affirms the other driver caused the accident.

That evidence might come from a dash cam, witness, or a nearby video camera that recorded the accident. If you are not severely injured, you might use a cellphone camera or a digital camera to take pictures of the accident scene and the vehicles involved.

You should exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver. You also should get the contact information of any useful witnesses who can help to affirm the other driver caused the accident.

You will need to file your insurance claim as soon as possible, but obtaining medical care when needed always is the top priority. You also should retain an experienced car accident lawyer to help you build the best possible case against the offending driver.


Baltimore Car Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Help to Hold Liable Drivers Accountable

If you were involved in an accident caused by a stressed or angry driver, the experienced Baltimore car accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton can help you to file a strong claim. We will be your advocate to secure the compensation for which you are entitled. Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

We have offices in Baltimore, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, allowing us to represent clients in Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.