FIVE FACTORS, ASIDE FROM DRINK, THAT MAY IMPAIR YOUR DRIVING OVER THE FESTIVE SEASON

09/12/2015

road

It’s not just the Christmas drinks that can cause driving impairment. Keep an eye out for these five alternative factors as your festive season gets going.

Dehydration

According to a study carried out by Loughborough University, dehydrated drivers are as impaired as drunk ones where preventable errors are concerned. Under test conditions, mildly dehydrated drivers committed the same number of errors as those with an illegal blood alcohol level.

The solution, according to Emeritus Professor of Sport and Exercise Nutrition Ron Maughan, is to educate drivers on maintaining safe levels of hydration. Salty food and alcohol are both causes of dehydration, so remember to enjoy that festive cheer with one eye on what you need to do in the morning.

So, how much water is enough? Two litres per day is a rule of thumb, though it’s hard to pin down a scientifically accurate figure. Environmental circumstances (including how hot or cold you are) come into play when dehydration is caused. Fortunately, your body has a built-in dehydration alarm: thirst. Listen to it, and stay on the ball.

Tiredness

Tiredness kills. Long distance journeys which are monotonous and often take place during unsociable hours represent a real risk of impairment for fleet drivers. And with one-fifth of all road accidents reportedly caused by tired driving, it’s imperative that fleet managers and their drivers understand how to minimise the risk of driving when drowsy. And drowsiness is all but inevitable at a time of year when parties increase, or last-minute deliveries need to be made!

Create and stick to a routine of manageable and legally-required breaks. According to the Highway Code, a driver should take a minimum of one 15-minute rest every two hours. Lifestyle factors should also be taken into account. Got a Christmas party to attend? You’ll need to leave early if you’re supposed to be on the road at dawn.

Back Pain

Back pain causes long-term driving impairment: in extreme cases, it can put a driver out of the cab for good. It’s brought on by poor posture behind the steering wheel, which can be remedied by adjusting the position of both the seat and the wheel.

Long term back and neck conditions are life-altering, causing severe and repeated absence from work. They’re also extremely hard to reverse. Fleet managers have a responsibility to educate drivers on how to protect their posture in the cabin - and drivers can manage their own back health too, by resting regularly and performing easy stretches to counteract the effects of long-distance stints.

Weather Conditions

Festive weather conditions make the news every year - and with good reason. Sudden snowfall, extreme wind and rain and poor visibility are all gifts that the elements leave regularly under the fleet driver’s Christmas tree.

It’s essential to be informed and prepared. Carry out routine service and maintenance checks on fleet vehicles throughout the winter, and ensure drivers are trained not only in how to drive when the weather turns, but when to stop, and what to carry in the cab. Emergency kits including triangles, food, water, shovels, and sleeping bags can make the difference between a safe bad-weather stop and a lethal one. Stay on top of the forecasts, stay warm, and drive safe.

Phone Distractions

Christmas is a time for contacting loved ones. But a driver’s mobile phone can be a deadly device. Phone distractions are the cause of one in four road traffic incidents and driving whilst texting is responsible for five percent of all collisions.

Using a mobile whilst driving is also against the law. Drivers should turn on Airplane Mode, leave their phones somewhere they can’t reach them, or use one of the apps mentioned in our recent article on distraction-free driving. The majority of these apps allow drivers to use music services while disabling incoming and outgoing calls, and can also log phone incidents that may cause bad driver behaviours.

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