Despite one in four drivers (27%) stating they are above average on the roads, almost one in 10 (9%) admit they have to use their hands to work out their left and right whilst driving, according to a poll of subconscious driving habits.
The research by used car supermarket, CarShop, revealed that almost half (48.5%) of British drivers say they turn the radio down when needing full concentration on tasks such as parking, reversing and looking for a destination. However, even stranger behaviour can be seen from some road users.
Over a quarter of Brits on the road subconsciously attempt to make themselves smaller by breathing in when driving through a tight gap (29%), one in five direct themselves to their destinations ‘out loud’, and 16% of British drivers lean to the side when turning a corner.
Leading UK Psychotherapist and Hypnotherapist, Nick Davies, explained, “When we’re in a car, we know that it’s an expensive piece of heavy machinery, so we’re scared of damaging it, and we’re scared of hurting anyone else or us with it, so we activate our stress response.
“Adrenaline increases our heart rate to pump blood to our muscles for quicker reactions, our rate of breathing also increases to pump oxygen around our system, but this can be overwhelming, so we try to slow it down.
“Noradrenaline sharpens our mental senses, it focuses our foveal vision so we can see what we’re doing more clearly, and it sharpens our hearing. We wouldn’t do these things outside of our car as we’re not moving a dangerous one-tonne vehicle that costs a few thousand pounds! Our stress and anxiety can also be learned behaviour from seeing our parents act in this way.
“When we are focusing on a task that can end in disappointment or pain, we narrow the focus of our attention to it, so external sounds, like the radio or others talking, will be a distraction so we shut them out.
“Driving under a bridge requires us to make images in our minds to best guess whether we’ll be ok or not. The more stress we’re under, the more stress hormones we produce (adrenaline and noradrenaline) which can make us think we may have underestimated our visual calculations, so we duck, just in case.”
Leo Nelson, Marketing and Digital Director CarShop, added, “The findings are extremely eye opening, especially how many drivers duck, turn and squeeze into gaps along the road, as if they were the car themselves.
“Whereas this sounds, on the surface, like a funny trait, those on the road should consider the stress that driving is having on them and what they can do to minimise its impact. If these unconscious reflexes are highlighting a stress response, we should make an effort to relax before undertaking long journeys and use calming mechanisms when particularly stressful events happen on the road, such as being stuck in traffic or having to contend with difficult behaviour from other drivers.”