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Work stress makes commuting dangerous

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British workers spend an average of one hour commuting every day, and 57% of commuters make these daily journeys by car. New research from the University of Haifa in Israel suggests that the works stressors that people think about while driving to and from work may be making these journeys dangerous.

The researchers collected data from more than 200 employees, with an average driving commute of 16 miles. They found that two types of psychological stress had an influence on driving behaviour.

The first stress factor was the degree of conflict that workers reported experiencing between their family life and the workplace. Higher work-family conflict was associated with more dangerous driving, with drivers even trying to make calls or send messages to resolve these sorts of conflicts while commuting. The second stress factor was supervisor abuse. Not only does this impair attention at work, but it can make drivers preoccupied during their commute and result in them sometimes driving dangerously.

The dangerous driving behaviours seen included overtaking on the inside lane or driving too close to the vehicle ahead. The researchers believe that work-related stress can take away some of the mental resources needed to drive safely.

The research has been published in the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology by Keren Turgeman-Lupo and Michal Biron. They felt that plenty of empirical data exist to suggest that commuting accidents are a major problem worldwide but that there is a lack of research on employee behaviour while commuting by car — in particular, our understanding of the antecedents of unsafe commuting behaviour.

Last reviewed 14 February 2017

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