by Hope Zvara
It's Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and I want to bring to your attention some reasons why your health may be causing your distracted driving. You might think distracted driving is caused by using cell phones, eating, and bad weather. Yes, all those things and more are reasons accidents happen on the road, but they're not the only causes.
It is easy to blame others when things go wrong in today's world. But whether you're a truck driver, an Uber driver, or a commuter, distracted driving is everywhere, and you can do something about it.
Being a fit driver doesn't just mean running sprints or doing sit-ups; it means you are safe on the road. Your health affects everyone else on the road with you.
There are three reasons your health may be causing distracted driving and what you can do about it.
If you're a smoker, that can affect your driving and result in distracted driving. How? The National Institutes of Health has examined the consequences of smoking while driving on road safety and found that cigarette smokers averaged 12 seconds of distraction –- the equivalent of traveling 525 feet without looking at the road.
Nicotine withdrawal symptoms occur when the supply of nicotine decreases. Initially, it improves mood and concentration while at the same time reducing anger, stress and helping you feel relaxed.
Withdrawal symptoms any nicotine user may experience at any time can include:
- Urges or cravings for nicotine
- Feeling anxious, jumpy, irritable, cranky, or angry
- Feeling frustrated, sad, or depressed
- Trouble sleeping
- Trouble concentrating
The good news is there are dozens of opportunities to kick the habit available out there today, patches or gum allow a slow release of nicotine for a smoker, so they feel fewer side effects as they kick the habit. There are programs like the St. Christopher Truckers Relief Fund's Rigs Without Cigs designed for drivers to assist them in becoming smoke-free. If you are looking to ditch the cigs, consider finding a support system that can help hold you accountable and encourage you during hard times and work to stay positive. Add a daily devotional to your morning or practice deep breathing to help boost endorphins to the brain during stressful times.
Being sleep deprived has many effects on our health, and as a driver, quality sleep can be hard to come by. Poor sleep can cause a lack of focus, feeling dizzy, poor concentration, and the inability to make quick decisions, something every driver must be ready to do at any moment. This can be very harmful to a driver's fitness because driving requires full focus and sharp vision. If you don't get ample sleep, sleep deprivation can also cause distracted driving at work.
As a driver, you may not be able to fix all your sleep needs, but consider creating a sleep routine. This may include low lighting leading up to bedtime, no electronics (blue light) 15-30 minutes before bed, adding relaxing music to your wind down time, and practicing deep breathing once in bed. Being sleep-deprived can leave anyone making irrational decisions, a slow reaction time, and the inability to stay focused; as a driver.
Not eating well
Food is an essential part of our lives. Food is fuel, and it provides us with the energy to function properly and perform tasks. When it comes to food, many drivers are solely focused on subduing hunger, so they end up eating empty calories giving them the feeling that they are full, but nothing they have eaten has fueled them nutritionally. Inadequate nutrition can cause dozens of distracted driving symptoms and quickly go overlooked.
Issues can include:
- Muscle weakness can be a sign of low potassium
- Numbness and tingling in the fingers can signify a lack of calcium
- Fatigue and shortness of breath can be linked to low iron
By shifting your focus to fueling your body with nutrition instead of just trying to eat food to feel full, you may find your focus improves, and you feel better.
Want to get more potassium in your diet? Try eating more bananas or spinach.
Looking to increase your calcium in your diet? Look for foods like cheese, dark leafy greens, and sardines to add to your diet.
Concerned about your iron intake? Add spinach, pumpkin seeds, turkey, and raisins to your food list.
Distracted driving may have plagued you in the past, but it doesn't have to be a concern for the future. Focused driving plays a vital role in any driver's fitness for effective driving. One of the significant problems that hinder attentive driving is the causes of distracted driving.
Often, distracted driving may result from any external element; however, sometimes, it's also the result of your health. This month make it your focus to reduce distracted driving, and you might find you improve your overall health and driver fitness in the process.
Hope Zvara is a yoga, movement, and lifestyle expert ,who is also a speaker, author and is the CEO of Mother Trucker Yoga. She also hosts a radio show titled "A Daily Dose of Hope" that focuses on truck drivers' well-being, implementing programs that speak to both the body and mind. Learn more at www.MotherTruckerYoga.com