TomTom reveals driving in traffic causes significant increase in unhealthy stress

It’s official: traffic is hazardous to your health. According to independent research commissioned by TomTom, drivers, and men in particular, seem to suffer a significant and unhealthy increase in physiological stress when driving in traffic.

Independent tests1 – which measured physiological stress markers in participants’ saliva – revealed that while women experienced an 8.7% increase in stress from driving in traffic, men suffered a significant 60% increase in stress. These statistics were in contrast to how the participants perceived the situation. For instance, although 67% of women and 50% of men reported they did they not ‘feel’ stressed after driving in traffic for 20 minutes, the saliva tests confirm that they actually were physiologically stressed. The research goes on to suggest that the effects of long-term exposure to stress chemicals include suppressed immune function, raised blood pressure and elevated blood sugar levels.

“These findings make good evolutionary sense,” said David Moxon, the health psychologist who led the research. “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.”

Corinne Vigreux, Managing Director, Consumer at TomTom believes the research brings a critical issue to light. “Many drivers see traffic congestion as a necessary evil. But this research proves that we have an obligation to challenge this line of thinking,” said Vigreux. “As announced in our Traffic Manifesto this May, we pledge to use our unique technology and our driving community to reduce traffic congestion by 5% for everyone.”

The research reveals there is a range of noticeable symptoms, although drivers may not take notice of the effects. Physical symptoms include dizziness, breathlessness, muscular aches and even chest pains, while behavioral symptoms include agitation and erratic driving.

Additionally, a recent global driving survey of 10,000 drivers carried out for TomTom2 revealed that 72% of people aged 18 to 64 drive on a daily basis – with 92% of people driving from home to work and 80% commuting from home to school. With an estimated one billion cars on our roads around the world, and it’s not surprising that 86% of drivers say they feel negatively impacted by traffic.

To deal with traffic-induced stress, drivers have developed a number of coping strategies. The survey reveals that 82% of drivers listen to music, while 21% talk to other passengers in order to pass the time and ease the tension. The survey also shows drivers around the world cope with traffic differently. American (38%) and Swedish (39%) drivers tend to talk on the phone to make better use of their time, while Dutch drivers prefer to comfort eat (14%). The study also found that English speakers in general, prefer to sing to themselves to reduce stress (United States: 20%, United Kingdom: 19% and South Africa: 16%).

For some, it genuinely seems to work – the TomTom tests2 reveal that two out of three women experience a reduction in driving-related stress from singing. In the United States, specifically, respondents hate traffic so much that American drivers would rather go to the dentist (75%) or meet their in-laws for the first time (92%) than be stuck in traffic.

As this research proves that traffic has an impact on drivers, and society in general, TomTom is encouraging drivers to break free from traffic with TomTom HD Traffic – available on its “LIVE” connected GPS devices. TomTom HD Traffic provides the most accurate traffic solution by reporting and capturing more actual traffic jams than ever before to help drivers avoid delays. Only TomTom HD Traffic will recognize traffic conditions for both major and secondary roads within the U.S. road network to help re-route drivers clear of traffic.

For more information, visit

1. Moxon, D. MSc, BSc Hons (Psych), Cert Ed. The Stress of Driving – summary report, 2011.
2. TomTom Driving Survey – Global Survey, 2011, Respondents included a random sample of 9,865 adults aged 18 to 64 in 11 countries.

[Info from Business Wire]

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