Time Pressure and Driving for Work

Defining Time Pressure when Driving

After the festive season, people are returning to work and may find a backlog of tasks that could not be completed before Christmas. People who drive for work may be required to hit the ground running and find themselves under time pressure.

Time pressure when driving can be defined as an unfavourable ratio between the quantity of available time and the quantity of time needed to reach a destination. Driving under time pressure leads to a deterioration in driving performance and an increase in crash risk. This is particularly the case for those people driving for work due to a number of situational and contextual factors. According to recent research, a driver at work appears to have a greater propensity to engage in risky driving behaviours include speeding, dangerous overtaking, and committing traffic rule violations. Risky behaviours seem to result from an excessive work-related attentional focus, depending on how important work-related goals are judged to be. Repeated exposure to time pressure when driving for work may have a chronic dimension and lead to burnout amongst professional drivers in particular (Meijman & Kompier, 1998).

Do Time Constraints Create Time Pressure when Driving?

Is time pressure all about time constraints? It can be argued that time constraints are not sufficient for eliciting the experience of time pressure. Not having enough time to reach a destination creates a feeling of time pressure only if the time limit is compulsory and if violating the time limit leads to some kind of sanction. For example, the driver is motivated to avoid being questioned by a manager about why deliveries are late and customers are complaining. Being regarded as unable to fulfil their employer’s expectations might lead to feelings of insecurity at work. Cranfield University research has also shown that professional drivers are motivated to be on time to avoid inconveniencing fellow drivers who may have to take up the slack (Dorn, 2012).

Time Pressure and Driving Personality

Feelings of time pressure when driving have been associated with personality factors. Drivers in a hurry are almost eight times more likely to be impatient drivers (Beck et al; 2012). Research undertaken at Cranfield University has also shown an association between ineffective emotion-focused coping strategies and driving under time pressure (Dorn et al., 2010). In particular, bus driving under time pressure is associated with Avoidance Coping as bus drivers attempt to ignore the stress through self-distraction. The danger inherent within this particular behavioural strategy is that attention to driving safely may be reduced. A far more effective strategy would be to recognise the stress emerging due to time pressure and take necessary steps to focus on potential hazards when driving for work.


Beck, K. H., Wang, M. Q., & Yan, A. F. (2012). Hurried driver dispositions: their relationship to risky traffic behaviors. American Journal of Health Behavior, 36, 86-95.

Dorn, L (2012) Investigating safety culture: A qualitative analysis of bus driver behaviour at work. Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors Annual conference. Blackpool, April 16-19.

Dorn, L, Stephen, L., af Wåhlberg, A. E. & Gandolfi, J (2010). Developing and validating a self report measure of bus driver behaviour. Ergonomics, 53, 1420–1433.

Meijman, T. & Kompier, M. A. (1998). Busy Business: how urban bus drivers cope with time pressure, passengers, and traffic safety. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 3, 109-121.