Everyone knows that it’s unsafe to get behind the wheel when you’ve been drinking, and we’re all at least a little bit aware of the dangers of texting while driving. You may have even heard that driving after staying awake for a full 24 hours can make you drive like you have a blood alcohol level of .10, which is over the legal BAC limit (that’s .08!). These are all important factors to consider before getting behind the wheel, but have you ever thought about how naturally-occurring states like emotions, illness, or injury can impact your driving? It’s National Health Awareness Month, and we’re here to share 3 healthy driver tips.
1. Know your stress triggers.
Are you someone who gets stressed out in traffic jams? Ever tense up when someone cuts you off? Do you feel anxious when you’re running late? Everyone has something that triggers their stress. Stress may not seem like a big deal, but according to the American Institute of Stress, it definitely can cause problems. Stress can trigger headaches, increased depression, insomnia, tense muscles, and even a weakened immune system. The effects of stress can cause you to become impaired behind the wheel.
Everyone processes stress differently. Find some coping mechanisms that work for you. If bad weather triggers your stress, avoid driving during storms. If traffic is a major stressor, try to find alternative routes or leave the house early so that you have extra time built in. If your stressors can’t be avoided, find ways to center yourself during your moments of stress. Listen to classical music or do some breathing exercises (box breathing is always helpful for me!). Keeping calm is so important when youâ€™re behind the wheel.
2. Read your medication labels.
Have you ever had to leave work or class early because of a headache? What about dizziness, nausea, or other types of pain? It’s flu season in the United States, and these symptoms are more common this time of year. If you’re driving home from work because you’re sick, you may be putting yourself in a worse position. Illness can make it harder to identify hazards and respond to them on the road. If you’re taking medication, even if it’s over-the-counter, make sure the side effects won’t impact your driving. You can also ask your doctor or pharmacist if the medication you’re taking will have any effect on your driving skills.
3. Be mindful of your diet.
On really busy days, it’s not uncommon to skip a meal here and there without even realizing it. You know those commercials where a monster is destroying the town until its wife hands it a candy bar? Have you ever been around a little kid who is absolutely melting down, but then perks right up after a snack? Getting "hangry" is real, and doctors sometimes attribute this to low blood sugar. The times of the day when we are most likely to experience low blood sugar are early in the morning, just before lunch (11:00 a.m.), and during the late afternoon (4:00 p.m.). Interestingly, these coincide with the times we are most likely to drive. In the morning we drive to work or school, around noon we drive to lunch, and after 4:00 p.m. we drive back home from a day at the office or school. If you’re not feeling like yourself when you’re hungry, it’s going to be more difficult to make the appropriate decisions behind the wheel. Grab a healthy snack (preferably one high in protein) for when the sugar blues hit on your drive, and make sure it’s nothing messy to distract you from driving.
We hope you take some of these tips and share them with others who spend time behind the wheel! The more healthy drivers we have on the road, the better. If you’re looking for more ways to become a better driver, why not brush up on your driving skills and knowledge with one of our online courses? Check out our website to see what courses we offer in your state and register today!