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Study: Some Drivers “Overwhelmed” After Lockdowns Lifted

Merging back into normal driving at your own pace
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Not everything is as easy as riding a bike. A good example: Driving a car in heavy traffic again after months of mainly staying at home during the initial stages of the coronavirus pandemic.

                                                              Getty Images

More than one in four respondents to a recent Reviews.com survey said they felt “overwhelmed” when they resumed normal driving routines after lockdown restrictions were lifted.

The survey, which was conducted July 5-11, queried 1,200 adults across the U.S. who drive their own vehicles.

Overstimulation

In some cases, the amount of surrounding activity—especially on busier roads and highways—was too much stimulation for drivers to handle.

“Getting on the freeway for the first time in two months was surreal,” said one respondent, who now is driving two to three times a week.

“It took a lot more focus to feel comfortable merging through traffic. I had to pay close attention to what all the other cars around me were doing,” the person noted, adding: “My instincts just weren’t there.”

Age Related

There wasn’t much difference in the responses between men and women.

But age mattered. Of the respondents aged 65 or older, two in five reported feeling "very overwhelmed” when they got behind the wheel again after the lockdown. In contrast, most respondents aged 18-35 said they feel only "somewhat," if at all, overwhelmed, since returning to normal driving.

Similar Patterns

The results track with previous studies about the effects on people of changes in driving environments. As an example, the authors cite a 1989 Los Angeles Times report that details how L.A. traffic traumatized people moving to the city from less congested areas.

Others have voiced concern about how automated driving systems will affect motorists. They warn that reliance on such systems will diminish people’s driving skills and make them ill-prepared to take control of a vehicle if an emergency arises.

Lasting Effects?

At least one respondent’s anxiety subsided fairly quickly. “After about a week of driving somewhat regularly, it felt normal again,” the person said.

But Reviews.com notes that it’s too early to know if the initial trauma experienced by some drivers will have a lingering effect. One telling stat to keep an eye on will be accident rates.

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