Vehicle Accidents -

The Human Element: Psychology of Driving in Urban Environments

Driving is something all — if not most — of us do daily. Whether commuting to work, driving our children to school, or traveling to appointments, getting behind the wheel is required. 

Sometimes, driving is done around a small town with just a few roads, familiar sites, smells, and sounds, with neighbors and businesses we know and recognize — and we enjoy these well-known surroundings. 

Other times, we have to travel outside our comfort zone into large cities. We are then surrounded by unfamiliar roadways, unknown businesses and residents, strange intersections, and unexpected and sometimes unfamiliar street signs. We may feel our body’s stress mounting as we continue driving into these foreign cities. 

In both situations, car accidents are a genuine possibility. When drivers are emotionally affected by their surroundings, crashes occur. If you have been the victim of a collision or a personal injury. T. Madden & Associates, P.C., can protect your legal rights and help you seek the compensation you deserve.

So why would two different driving scenarios have such varied stress responses on our bodies? For centuries, civilizations have attempted to create order and bring predictability to their environments. From streets showcasing a connection to nature to tiny details that allow movement to flow through the alleyways.

While many urban cities have begun to transform the landscapes surrounding highways and roadways, many cities still have a cold, stress-inducing feel. These industrial areas are filled with buildings and factories. Your body goes into a state of discomfort, feeling the added stress and annoyance of being behind the wheel. 

Urban Air and Noise Pollution 

The growth of an urban area often leads to air and noise pollution from the heavy traffic and surrounding businesses. Studies have shown that the noise from traffic alone can create a physiological stress response that ultimately will impact a driver’s well-being. If a driver has long-term exposure to these driving situations, the emotional and physical toll can be severe. 

Physical Response to Urban Driving

The physical responses that a driver can feel during these times of stress include an elevated heart rate and recurring sleep disturbances. Gridlock and overcrowded streets can cause a driver to experience aggression and frustration with the situation, leading to road rage or impulsive driving decisions. 

A recent study by the World Health Organization (WHO) concluded that the noise from road traffic increased the risk of ischemic heart disease and other cardiometabolic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and stroke. Nighttime driving noise can also lead to further health issues such as cardiovascular disease caused by the increased vascular oxidative stress and stress hormones.

Urban traffic scenarios often lead to swerving in and out of traffic and quickly speeding up and slowing down, resulting in accidents that could have been easily avoided had it not been for the urban roadway stressors. 

Situational Perceived Control

Perceived control is another psychological principle that drivers of urban areas do not experience. This is the feeling that one is able to exert control over certain events or situations. Clear signage, well-designed intersections, and updates using real-time technology are all aspects that help a driver feel in control. Most urban areas lack these simple devices and layouts. 

Social Behavior of Urban Driving 

When drivers are in an unwelcoming environment, their social behavior is affected. They no longer feel a sense of community or oneness. Instead, they are overwhelmed with a feeling of fight or flight. They become defensive and not courteous to their fellow drivers. Rural areas that provide a small-town feel cause drivers to have appropriate social behaviors and values that lead to courtesy on the roads, leading to a more supportive and positive driving experience for all drivers.

Rural and Suburban Areas 

On the other hand, rural areas can create a physical environment that can change human behavior, including the availability of multiple parking spaces, the presence of traffic signs, and the aesthetics and layout of the roadways. 

Measures that produce a more calming environment, such as speed bumps, narrow roads, and roundabouts, can encourage drivers to exercise safer and slower driving behavior. The presence of these features can signal drivers to proceed with caution through their instinctual understanding of environmental cues. 

Psychological Environmental Influences 

In a similar scenario, people consider choosing modes of transportation that are more sustainable when they are surrounded by the accessibility of public transit, bike-only lanes, and pedestrian-friendly zones.

When appropriate social interactions are encouraged through a mixed-use neighborhood containing a blend of recreational spaces and commercial and residential buildings, a form of community bonding occurs. This type of environment creates functionality and social ability. People have an innate sense of community responsibility that influences our driving behavior, causing consideration and respectfulness that reduces the chances of road rage or driver aggression. 

Quieter and greener environments can affect driver psychology. When drivers experience a peaceful drive that has excess noise blocked out and green spaces to break up the visual clutter of urban congestion, they experience an improved mood and lowered stress. This allows for calmer and more mindful habits while driving.

Social Inequities of Urban Environments 

The design of urban areas within cities can often directly reflect the social inequities that occur statewide. The availability of public transportation, the condition of the roads,  and available parking spaces could vary from one neighborhood to another. 

Unfortunately, the funding provided to the state is not evenly dispersed from one community to the next. The disparities in urban communities can directly influence the experiences that drivers have while using roadways and can bring to light the much larger social injustice issues occurring in urban roadway design.

First Person View of an Incoming Crash of a Car with a Bus

Attorneys for Accidents in Urban Environments 

If you have been the victim of an accident in an urban Georgia area, let the attorneys at T. Madden & Associates P.C., represent you. Call our black-owned business today for a free case evaluation so we can protect your legal rights.

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