Americans will log literally billions of miles on the highway over the long Memorial Day weekend. And while we may like to think about open road adventures, the traditional start of the summer season is just as likely to bring endless traffic jams as millions of motorists cram onto the roads heading for the same ocean shores, theme parks and lake-front cottages.
The fact is, we live in our cars for play and for work, the typical commuter traveling about 148 miles a week, according to Experian Automotive – though that’s actually down a bit from five years ago, reflecting the impact of unemployment perhaps more than anything else.
Whether you’re heading out for a vacation or just to the office, independent research reveals that driving really is hazardous to your health – even if you never get into an accident. The big problem is stress, reveals a worldwide study commissioned by TomTom, one of the major navigation system manufacturers. But the study also reveals some creative ways motorists have come up with to reduce stress levels.
Researchers measured stress levels by looking for physiological markers in participants’ saliva. They found that women experienced an 8.7% increase in stress while driving in traffic. But for men, stress levels soared by 60%. Curiously, half of all men and two-thirds of the women involved in the study insisted that they didn’t feel stressed after spending 20 minutes in traffic.
“Men, in particular, show a strong acute physiological ‘fight or flight’ response. The fact that they are not always aware of this could indicate that driving regularly in dense traffic could have a profound effect on their health,” said David Moxon, the health psychologist who oversaw the research.