Driving and stress
Where in the U.S. do drivers complain the most about the roads?
From bad weather conditions to seemingly endless traffic jams, lots of factors can make driving a stressful experience.
But depending on where you live in the U.S., just how stressful do your fellow drivers find their time behind the wheel? To find out, we collected 1.3 million driving-related tweets posted all around the country and used an AI tool to detect their stress levels. Our analysis also reveals the highways in the country that drivers find stressful to drive on, and have found many annoying pet peeves on the road, based on Twitter data.
Read on for our findings and our top tips to make driving a stress-free experience.
What did we find out?• Bad weather makes drivers more stressed than any other factor on the road
• Drivers in Portland, Oregon find driving the most stressful
• Drivers think Chicago is the worst city for getting stuck in traffic
• I-90 from Chicago, Illinois through to Indiana is the highway that draws the most complaints from drivers
Where do drivers complain about driving the most?
Our analysis reveals that drivers in Portland, Oregon complain about driving more than in any other city in the U.S. Nearly half (47.6%) of the driving-related tweets we found in Portland registered as stressed when we ran it throughTensiStrength.
TensiStrength is an AI tool that detects stress levels in short pieces of text based on indicators like word choice and punctuation. Chicago and New York City also rank highly.
Where do drivers complain about driving the least?
The least stressed drivers tweet from Jacksonville, Florida. Less than a third (32.7%) of driving-related tweets we found there registered as stressed, according to the TensiStrength tool.
Tampa ranks as the second-least stressful city for drivers, according to the proportion of driving-related tweets there that are stressed (36.1%).
What is most likely to make drivers stressed about driving?
Next, we scanned a sample of tweets containing specific keyphrases (e.g. “potholes”) to find out which factors make drivers the most stressed on the road.
Rain comes out on top, with 56.5% of tweets about driving in the rain registering as stressed according to the TensiStrength tool.
General bad weather conditions and snow also rank highly as stressful factors. Aside from the weather, one in two tweets about other drivers using cell phones registered as stressed.
What pet peeves on the road cause drivers the most stress?
Our map below reveals the pet peeves that each state’s motorists find the most stressful. We searched for tweets about driving in each state that also mentioned common pet peeves like “speeding” and “potholes'' and used TensiStrength to calculate the proportion of those tweets that registered as stressed.
Drivers hate traffic the most in the majority (27) of states, followed by speeding (6).
What are the most stressful days of the week to drive?
We also discovered the most stressful days of the week for driving in each state, based on the proportion of tweets posted on those days that registered as stressed.
Our analysis reveals that in eight states each, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are when the most stressed tweets are posted about driving. Explore our map to find out when drivers in your state are the most stressed about driving.
The most complained-about highways in the country
Next, we wanted to find out which specific highways felt the most stressful to drivers.We scanned the stress levels of driving-related tweets posted in the vicinity of some of the most traveled highways in the country and discovered that I-90 between Illinois and Indiana is the most stressful for drivers. 45.7% of tweets for this highway, which passes through downtown Chicago, registered as stressed.
Which cities are the worst for being stuck in traffic?
Everyone hates traffic jams wherever they happen, but which cities are the worst for being stuck in traffic? We created a ranking that gives each city a score based on the percentage of stressed driving-related tweets posted there and how congested the local traffic is. The lower the score each city has been given, the worse it is for traffic.
Chicago ranks as the worst city, with an index score of 4. New York City (5), Philadelphia (11), and Portland, Oregon (11) also rank highly.
“This study reveals that 41% of tweets about driving registered as stressed when we applied an AI analysis” commented Steve Harris, Vice President of HiRoad Assurance Company. “That’s a large percentage, showing us that thousands of drivers in the U.S. are likely experiencing stress while driving on a daily basis” he went on to say.
Thousands of drivers in the U.S. are likely experiencing stress while driving on a daily basis.
— Steve Harris, VP HiRoad
Stressing triggers vary from driver to driver. Traffic was found to be the most annoying pet peeve in the majority of states, and overall, we discovered that bad weather makes drivers the most stressed. And that stressor can lead to accidents, according to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), one in five road crashes every year are due to weather conditions.
Based on our research, we also found which day of the week drivers in each state find driving the most stressful.
Also, where you drive will have an impact on how stressed you’re feeling. We discovered that Portland, Oregon is complained about more than any other city in the U.S. by drivers.
While every highway in our analysis of Twitter data saw at least one third of related tweets registering as stressed, I-90 causes more stress than any other highway in the country. I-90 passes through Chicago, reflecting our discovery that Chicago is the worst city in the country for traffic.
While stressful factors may sometimes be unavoidable on the road, we’ve put together our five top tips to help reduce stress while driving and make driving a safer, more mindful, and enjoyable experience.
How to help make driving a stress-free experience
Avoid peak traffic and give yourself extra time
Nobody likes sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic. When the clock’s ticking and you’ve got somewhere to be, driving at rush hour can be a very stressful experience. If you’re planning a trip, avoid peak hours if you can and schedule in extra time to account for any unexpected traffic. If you know ahead of time where there may be congestion on the road, look up alternative routes and plan extra time accordingly.
Play some relaxing music
An easy way to make your car environment as zen as possible is to play some relaxing or upbeat music. One study found that playing music while driving can reduce stress and its effect on the heart. Prepare a playlist that’s guaranteed to chill you out ahead of time and you’ll find driving a stress-free breeze.
Switch your phone to do not disturb
Driving requires 100% of your attention, which is why it can be stressful if your phone starts ringing and buzzing on the passenger seat and you’re unable to answer it. Unless you’re safely using your phone’s GPS system, switch your phone off or do not disturb mode. Driving distracted can be extremely dangerous and depending on the law where you live, being caught using your phone at all while driving can lead to heavy penalties too.
Don’t drive angry
According to one study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, driving while angry increases your crash risk by nearly 10 times. Aggressive driving (or road rage) is one of the leading causes of serious accidents on the road. You can prevent this by not driving at all if you’re angry or upset. Take a walk instead to center yourself and calm down.
If you find yourself getting angry while driving, take some deep breaths and allow your muscles to relax rather than tensing up. Pull over and take some time to calm down with some relaxing music if your emotions are running too high to drive safely.
Take care of yourself off the road
You can’t drive safely if you’re exhausted, which is why it’s really important that you get a good night’s sleep before hitting the road. A lack of sleep can make you more irritable too, which will only add to any stress you encounter on the road.
An unhealthy diet and not drinking enough water can also cause fatigue and make concentrating difficult behind the wheel, so looking after your overall health is a great way of reducing the likelihood of you making errors while driving.
Our analysis considers 1.3 million geotagged tweets related to driving posted on Twitter. Twitter data was collected between May 12 to May 25 2022. We considered tweets from drivers in 49 U.S. states (incl. Rhode Island, Arizona, and Utah), 93 U.S. cities and the 20 busiest highways in the country.
Each tweet was scanned with TensiStrength, an AI tool developed by Mike Thelwall at the University of Wolverhampton. The tool detects stress levels in short pieces of text and assigns it a stress level score. For the purposes of our analysis, any tweet that scored between -2 (stressed) and -5 (very stressed) was considered stressed.
To find the most stressful driving pet peeves, we searched for tweets about driving that also contained pet peeve keyphrases like “potholes” and scanned them with TensiStrength to find the proportion of tweets that were stressed.
The most stressful days to drive in a state were found by analyzing the stress levels of tweets posted at a certain day of the week.
We found the most stressful highways to drive on by searching for driving-related tweets posted in the vicinity of the most-traveled highways in the U.S. (source: FHWA) and using TensiStrength to calculate the proportion of stressed tweets.
To find the worst cities to be stuck in traffic in, we created an index ranking using the percentage of stressed tweets about being stuck in traffic in each city and the amount of traffic in each city using the INRIX 2021 Global Traffic Scorecard. The lower a city’s index score, the worse it is to drive in.
Our analysis was completed in May 2022.