Muscat: Motorists who drive recklessly and take unnecessary risks on the road are most likely to be anxious or depressed, according to a leading psychologist in Oman.
Dr Laura DoVale, clinical psychologist at Muscat Private Hospital, said there is a link between
reckless driving and psychological distress.
"If a person cannot control his or her instincts behind the wheel, then he or she isn't a safe driver," she believed.
The doctor also felt that such people may use their vehicles to vent their frustration.
"Cars can be used as weapons. A lot of people use their cars to vent their frustration. While some motorists resort to speeding if they are upset, others pick a fight or race with other drivers," said Dr DoVale.
If you are worried, upset, frightened, depressed or even excited, your driving skills can be negatively impacted, she explained.
In the first half of 2014, of the 404 people who were killed in road accidents, 236 were Omani nationals, while 168 were expatriates. Also, among those injured, 2,131 were Omanis and 701 were expatriates. In June 2014 there were 413 road accidents, resulting in the death of 64 people, which included 46 Omanis and 18 expatriates.
While motorists are aware of the dangers of drinking and driving or using a cellphone while driving, many are not aware of how extreme emotions can cause havoc on the road.
"If you have a fight with me and drive off with loud music playing in the car, it could increase your anger and you might drive recklessly. Whereas, if you are coming back from a party and you play music, you're aiming to continue that state of joy. It can be dangerous depending on your mood," explained Dr DoVale.
"There are several studies to show that even by talking while driving, you lose five-ten per cent of your concentration," she added.
Dr DoVale explained that some people cannot cope with the challenges and cannot control themselves. "A prime example is tailgating a vehicle. Out of frustration, the driver will allow the tailgater to pass and then tailgate that person," she said.
She stated that driving a vehicle gives people a feeling of power and invincibility, especially young drivers.
"Young people say: 'I know what I'm doing', while travelling at 200kph. This gives them the feeling of being powerful, important and feel above the rules and other people. Many do this to fulfil their ego," said Dr DoVale.
The lack of things to do to entertain one's self in the Sultanate, forces people to resort to driving. The car is used as a tool of enjoyment where some like to drive fast, but driving fast can lead to consequences. Music in the car also affects the way a person drives.
Learning to drive in Oman has its pros and cons. The driving instructors do their best to teach learners the basics of driving and traffic rules issued by the ROP. However, drivers are not always emotionally prepared to get behind the wheel.
Respect for drivers
"I think the one thing missing in this country is respect for drivers. It is strange that in Omani (Arab) culture, people are kind and hospitable. They sense that someone needs help and they help them. We don't see that while driving," she stated.
Experts have urged drivers to control their emotions while driving or seek medical help.
"If you are angry or upset because of a driving incident try to pull over and recover before setting off again," they said.