More than 2000 people (2090) around the UK were asked about the links between state of mind and driving behaviour for the study, commissioned by Carrot Insurance, which found that:

  • Around two thirds (66%) of people say their state of mind affects their driving
  • Almost a quarter (23%) of young drivers aged 18-24 believe their state of mind has a big impact on their driving – this belief reduces with age – to 14% for the 35-44 age group and 7% for the over 55s
  • Nine out of ten people (89%) believe anger makes people more likely to be involved in a crash; 84% believe stress could be a likely cause of accidents; and more than two thirds (64%) see depression as a similar trigger
  • The behaviour of aggressive drivers and careless pedestrians, together with running late, topped the list* of issues having a negative impact on people’s driving behaviour [*respondents were asked to choose three from a list of ten]

The YouGov survey also showed some differences between the concerns of men and women:

  • Driving in the dark is more of a concern for women than men, with 28% reporting that it was likely to have a detrimental effect on their driving compared with 19% of men; the same is true of motorway driving, at 11% of women vs just 4% of men
  • On the other hand, more men chose slow drivers (37%) and heavy traffic (26%) as likely to negatively impact their driving, compared with 23% and 20% respectively of women.

In addition to the YouGov study, Carrot Insurance also asked its own customers – most of whom are young drivers aged around 24 – about their mental health experiences via an anonymous online questionnaire.  

Within just 24 hours they received nearly 1100 responses, with many people telling their own stories of how their mental health affected, or had been affected by, their driving experiences.

Paul Ripley, CEO and founder of online driver coaching business The Driving Doctor, and a globally renowned expert on driver behaviour, education and road safety, said the findings of both surveys underpinned the clear link between people’s state of mind and their driving.

“The state of our mental health affects our attitudes, behaviours and emotions, and can therefore have a significant impact on the way we drive,” he said.

“These human factors profoundly manipulate our behavioural approach to safe driving, and may have a detrimental effect on the way we think, feel, act and react to situations we meet on the road.

“This can lead to erratic decision making and risky driving practises.  Such decisions made by a driver in a poor mental state play a prominent role in unsafe driving outcomes.

“It’s really encouraging that Carrot Insurance has chosen to engage with and support young drivers on the hugely important issue of mental health and its influence on safer driving.”

Of the people who responded to Carrot’s own customer survey:

  • 15 % reported having either poor or somewhat poor mental health.
  • 65% said they were likely or very likely to seek help if they felt their driving was being affected by mental health
  • 75 % said they were knowledgeable or very knowledgeable about mental health issues
  • Many gave examples of links between their state of mind and their driving* – some described how feeling stressed made them drive more aggressively; some had had accidents that had left them anxious behind the wheel; a number however said that  going for a drive helped them to relax and calm down

Carrot Insurance Managing Director Ed Rochfort said they had been amazed by the number of people who had responded. “It shows the level of awareness and concern they have about mental health,” he said.

“It’s worrying of course that 15% of them report a degree of poor mental health – on the other hand it’s encouraging that most of them would seek help if they needed it.

“They were very honest with us about their experiences, positive and negative. One reported that, having suffered with long-term poor mental health, they never thought they’d pass their test and get a car – when they did it proved to be fantastically helpful in helping their state of mind.

“On the other hand, another said that suffering stress and pressure at work impaired their driving ability and made them careless behind the wheel.

“Whatever the issue, our paramount concern is their safety on the roads, and we want to make sure that that help is easily accessible for those who need it.”

He added that Carrot would be adding a section to their website giving advice and signposting appropriate contacts for anyone wanting support on mental health issues, as well as talking to MIND and UK Youth to find out how they can collaborate with them.