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I-85 Collapse: What Stress Can Do To You While Driving

April 15, 2017

Traffic jams can be downright annoying. Depending on why a traffic tie-up happened in the first place, a motorist could sit and not move or just crawl by for hours and hours. It is an exhausting ordeal and frustration that quickly mounts in the minds of even the calmest drivers.

The stress growing as a result of being stuck in traffic during the I-85 reconstruction slowly creeps forward, despite the best efforts of all of the construction crews working around the clock, is inevitable. There is no way around this mess for some people.

The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) has offered alternate routes around the traffic with little relief. Driver frustration will increase the longer the bottlenecks persist. As an incentive to complete the project as soon as possible, and beat the June 15, 2017, deadline GDOT announced, GDOT has offered the general contractor it hired to rebuild I-85 a $3.1 million incentive to finish before June 15. GDOT told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the agency wants people's lives to return to normal as soon as possible. The agency made it clear that safety must not be compromised in favor of speed. Therefore, drivers in the Metropolitan Atlanta area should expect the traffic jams to continue. In the meantime, drivers should learn additional ways to cope with the stress.

Stress rises in drivers as tension increases. Drivers can experience the onset of stress after a threatening event such as getting cut off or jamming on brakes to avoid colliding with the vehicle that stopped short in front of the driver. Traffic jams significantly increase the tension and stress drivers experience while behind the wheel. Other tension causing conditions drivers experience are:

  • Being stuck in stop-and-go traffic,
  • Getting caught in a traffic flow that redirects the driver away from the destination,
  • Road work and congestion associated with lane closures, especially when no work is being performed,
  • Inpatient or aggressive drivers,
  • Inattentive drivers,
  • Other operators refusing or failing to signal directional changes,
  • Being tailgated,
  • Detours, and
  • Parking difficulties.

Experts claim that the fight or flight response in humans contributes to stress when operating a vehicle. People act differently when insulated by their car. They tend to act differently and out of character for themselves.

Many people become much more aggressive when they perceive another driver has slighted them, which is the beginning stages of road rage. As humans, we tend to ruminate in our anger and frustration. Drivers act out of anger and frustration because the negative thoughts impair their cognitive functioning leading to impulsive decision-making and causing conflicts.

The best way to cope with the traffic situation caused by the I-85 fire and collapse might be to recognize it could be worse, and this is a once-in-a-lifetime event. Experts suggest motorists leave extra time to arrive at their destination, investigate alternate methods and routes of transportation, and listening to soothing music can reduce stress. Drivers should realize too that they are powerless over the situation, so growing angry does not accomplish anything constructive and can have deleterious effects on a person's life.

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Sources: cited within and 

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