The long-term health impacts of road rage have been revealed in a world first study commissioned by Queensland’s peak motoring body.
RACQ revealed that the landmark research conducted through the University of the Sunshine Coast showed courteous drivers could live longer and help others do the same.
RACQ General Executive Manager Advocacy Paul Turner said the year-long study showed direct links between driver behaviour and stress levels, with implications for long-term health.
“Our study subjects were placed in different driving scenarios while sharing the road with certain stereotypes of drivers – aggressive, distracted, oblivious or kind and considerate – while their heart rates, anxiety levels, and blood pressure were monitored,” Mr Turner said.
“We found the ‘nice’ driver had the most effect on others, reducing stress levels the most and triggering them to mirror the good behaviour themselves, creating a scientific ripple effect.
“Conversely, the aggressive driver increased participants’ stress and caused them to make simple errors leading to missed turns and near misses with other drivers.
“But this type of stress has also been shown to cause higher resting blood pressure up to six and a half years later, which can contribute to cardiovascular disease and other long term health problems.”
Mr Turner said even certain infrastructure increased stress for motorists.
“Roadworks sites, roundabouts and intersections are all consistent stress inducers, while merging, being overtaken, slow vehicles or blocked routes as well as driving closely to oncoming traffic are common stressful occurrences,” he said.
“Disturbingly, what we found is many people are unaware of the increased stress and corresponding health risks they’re experiencing, so the danger goes undetected.”
Mr Turner said further education for motorists on the impact on-road behaviour has on their stress levels and their long and short term health was needed.
“We’ll also be working with all levels of government to see what changes can be made to reduce infrastructure stress for all drivers.”