Should there be a "Duty to Declare Divorce" to the Department of Motor Vehicles? Are the newly separated a danger to themselves and others when driving under the influence of divorce and its associated trauma? No doubt the onset of divorce is often akin to flying head-on into a Mack Truck, but does that mean you need to actually drive into one?
On a daily basis, clients share stories of their most recent fender benders, collisions and sometimes major accidents - all noted as a direct consequence of overwhelming distraction and their distraught state. In particular, men and women report that in the early stages of separation they encounter an out of body experience and have little recollection of how they got through their day, managed their children or performed their job.
They say that driving when fatigued is like driving while intoxicated. While it is difficult to attribute sleepiness to car accidents as there is no standardized test for fatigue like there is for intoxication, data shows that fatigue slows reaction time, decreases awareness and impairs judgement. The newly separated not only report inability to sleep and the ensuing fatigue but an overall feeling of emotional and physical exhaustion in the early stages of divorce or periods of extreme conflict.
So how do the newly separated get from point A to point B in their cars? Many have no idea. In fact, it is not uncommon for those in the throws of divorce to report locking keys in their car, driving in circles, passing their destination, forgetting where they are headed and getting lost on their way. Divorcing drivers have even commented that it was luck not presence of mind that allowed them to drive without incident.
If you or a loved one are driving under the influence of divorce consider the following strategies before getting behind the wheel:
- Call a friend and ask for a ride. Finally, a way for someone waiting in the wings to be helpful.
- Take a CAB, public transit or walk. Not only will you be safe, but you will have the opportunity to clear your head.
- If you are going to drive, put your cell phone in the back seat. Resist all temptation to call your lawyer while driving, vent to a friend while at light or call your EX and rage. Eliminate an additional distraction.
- Write down directions, get a map and put an extra set of car keys in your purse, pocket, office or other convenient location.
- When you park the car, write down on a piece of paper the exact location of where you parked. Take the paper with you and pay attention to where you put it. Leave a pack of POST IT notes in the car to make this easy.
- Make sure you are well rested and take a coffee, tea or bottle of water along for the ride.
- Never drive yourself to court. You are sure to be stressed to max on your way there only to be trumped by how you may feel on your way home. Follow 1 or 2.
- The same can be said for driving to meetings with your lawyer. Follow 1 or 2.
- If you feel like you are driving recklessly and cannot resist, give your car keys to a friend.
- Slow down. Turn the music down. Turn the noise down. Turn the DVD player down and drive with extreme caution and care. Be aware of your distraction and focus.
If driving under the influence of divorce is on your radar, remember that it is not a chronic condition but rather a phase that can be navigated strategically and safely. At the very least, shake hands with your divorce distractions and your distress and drive with caution and care.
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