Driving for a long uninterrupted period has been linked to several harmful side effects. Unfortunately for some, it’s an unavoidable part of the job. Rideshare drivers spend the major portion of their day on the road. Uber, Lyft, and other rideshare drivers usually work long hours. And the status quo is not going to change any time soon.
So what exactly are the detrimental effects of long-term driving? It’s a longer list than you might think. The American Journal of Preventive Medicine released a report stating that both your blood sugar and cholesterol can rise on long drives, thereby increasing your chances of diabetes or heart disease. Researchers at the University School of Medicine in Saint Louis and the Cooper Institute in Dallas have linked driving to depression, anxiety, and social isolation. Stressful situations during your shift or commute can spike your blood pressure, but that should come as no surprise to anyone who’s ever spent a substantial amount of time stuck in traffic. Spikes aren’t the only problem, however, as blood pressure rises gradually over time, as well.
It does get worse. Driving is not only physically sedentary, but it can also be mentally sedentary too. When you fall into “highway hypnosis,” you mentally check out and suffer from a severe lack of stimulation. Stimulating your brain keeps it happy and healthy, so staying for a long period without stimulation can do just the opposite.
Everyone understands the dangers of falling asleep behind the wheel. Driver fatigue can lead to daydreaming, zoning out, drifting, slow reaction times, trouble focusing, and more. If you’re feeling a little dreary-eyed while driving, please note that a readily available tool to help you keep your eyes open is noise. Music can help keep you alert, and the louder, the better. Audiobooks might keep you engaged. GPS directions can not only help you navigate, but the frequent audio alerts can provide well-timed wake-up calls. In addition to noise, rolling down a window and letting in some fresh air can be invigorating, especially at night when it’s cold.
The longer you drive, the more your back is going to hate you. The short-term effects can be uncomfortable at best and extremely painful at worst. Fortunately, as with growing tired, there are solutions. They won’t eliminate the problem entirely but researching and following some basic posture guidelines can reduce the stress on your spine (find helpful tips here).
So what can you do to help address these risk? Well......
So what are some general guidelines for safe driving? For starters, get plenty of sleep when you’re not driving. The less rest you get, the faster the fatigue kicks in, with all of the serious risks that come with it. If you know you have a long driving day ahead of you, make sure need to get a full night’s rest.
Eat the right food. As tempting as it is to hit the drive-thru, anything you get through your car window is much more likely to make you crash sooner than you have given your body the energy it needs to stay alert. Just like your car, you need fuel, and that usually means a vitamin-packed, protein-rich food.
The same goes for your liquid intake. Toss out that Big Gulp and replace it with cool, refreshing water. Energy drinks might seem like a good idea, but maybe you could try tea instead, which can hydrate you while providing a nice caffeine kick.
Here’s a tip you might have probably never considered: chew gum. Sugar-free will work just fine, as you’re not looking for a sugar boost. The repetitive chewing motion will keep you alert, as well as help boost your circulation.
Don't forget to stretch
Stretching is something we should do daily to maintain mobility and health. I know when we are out providing services we it can be hard to find the time to do anything other than driving, especially when the rides are rolling in, but it’s very important to find some time to loosen up those muscles and actually something you can easily do. If you’re really pressed use the time at the gas pump to do a few key stretches to relax those muscles. You can find a few quick stretches for drivers you can do here.
Exercise, Exercise, Exercise
It goes without saying that we should all take care of our bodies and one of the biggest factors in a healthy body is exercise. Again, with the limited time we have it’s hard to fit it in with our busy schedules, but very important. The Mayo Clinic suggest as little as 30 mins a day goes a long way. One suggestion might be to set 30 minutes aside for a quick jog around the block before you decide to go out. Your body will thank you.
Laugh it up!
Music is good, and audiobooks can even be better but consider some stand-up comedy. Laughing will keep you awake and stimulated, more so than your favorite songs.
Understanding the effects of long-term driving occupations is key in taking steps to prevent its negative side effects.
There are some very simple things we can do to help alleviate the negative effects that come with it, which will help keep us stay more alert, healthy and earning more to keep us happy!