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Are your fleet drivers in a bad mood? What’s the risk?

Updated: Apr 28, 2023

By Dr Lisa Dorn, Founder of PsyDrive

Moods can change quickly in response to what is going on in your life. Sometimes, fleet drivers are in a bad mood due to personal circumstances, or they may be prone to bad moods due to their personality (Dorn and Matthews, 1995). What do we mean by a bad mood? Psychologists have investigated mood for several decades including the effect of mood on driving behaviour. In contrast to emotions, moods are less intense and changeable. Moods are typically described as either a positive or negative. A bad mood is due to low arousal and can be expressed as sadness or due to high arousal and expressed as anger. Anger can lead fleet drivers to process driving-related information in an automatic mode and this can lead drivers to miss relevant hazards, whereas sadness can generate mind wandering (Zimasa et al, 2019). Both these effects of mood can impact on fleet safety.

Bad moods can either arise due to personal circumstances or in response to other road users and across different traffic situations like traffic jams. This is not a trivial problem, when they’re in a bad mood, your fleet drivers are more likely to crash, especially when driving angry or feeling frustrated (Deffenbacher et al, 2003). There are two possible reasons why driving in a bad mood might increase the chances of being involved in a crash whilst driving for work. Bad moods may change driving behaviour due to increased risk taking and they can directly impair a drivers’ ability to detect hazards.

Bad Mood and Risk Taking

Angry drivers may be more likely to evaluate the traffic situation harshly, spend less time assessing the situation and be quicker to allocate blame to others. Irritation is frequently expressed in aggressive and hostile behaviours towards other drivers, such as verbal rebukes, tailgating, frequent overtaking, and angry gestures.

Bad Mood impairs Hazard Detection

A bad mood can impair your fleet driver’s ability to detect and respond to hazards leading to a failure to attend to peripheral cues. Visual search is also impaired with longer fixating on hazards to the detriment of responding to other hazards. Drivers in a bad mood may disengage their attention too soon and attend to alternative distractions in the driving scene before they have fully processed all relevant information (Chapman and Walton, 2013).

Mindful Driving

There is now a strong evidence-base showing that mindfulness can increase attention to and awareness of experiences in the present moment and buffer drivers against the negative consequences of stress by adopting an attitude of acceptance toward these experiences. Training your fleet drivers how to self-regulate attention will promote greater situation awareness of the driving environment and improve fleet safety (Koppell et al, 2018; 2019; Chin et al 2019).

For more information about our online Mindful Driving sessions for fleet drivers, contact PsyDrive


Chapman, P and Walton, J. (2013). The Impact of Frustration on Visual Search and Hazard Sensitivity in Filmed Driving Situations. In L. Dorn, L. (Ed) Driver Behaviour and Training: Volume VI (pp. 95-108). Routledge.

Chin, B., Lindsay, E. K., Greco, C. M., Brown, K. W., Smyth, J. M., Wright, A. G., & Creswell, J. D. (2019). Psychological mechanisms driving stress resilience in mindfulness training: A randomized controlled trial. Health Psychology, 38(8), 759.

Dorn, L. & Matthews, G. (1995). Prediction of mood and risk appraisals from trait measures: Two studies of simulated driving. European Journal of Personality, 9, 25-42.

Deffenbacher, J., Deffenbacher, D., Richards, T., & Lynch, R. (2003). Anger, aggression and risky behavior: A comparison of high and low anger drivers. Behavior Research and Therapy, 41, 701-718.

Koppel, S., Bugeja, L., Hua, P., Osborne, R., Stephens, A. N., Young, K. L., & Hassed, C. (2019). Do mindfulness interventions improve road safety? A systematic review. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 123, 88-98.

Koppel, S., Stephens, A.N., Hua, P., Young, K.L., Chambers, R., Hassed, C., (2018). What is the relationship between self-reported aberrant driving behaviors, mindfulness, and self-reported crashes and infringements? Traffic Inj. Prev. 19 (5), 480–487.

Zimasa, T., Jamson, S., & Henson, B. (2019). The influence of driver’s mood on car following and glance behaviour: Using cognitive load as an intervention. Transportation research part F: traffic psychology and behaviour, 66, 87-100.


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