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Dangerous driving – Five ways driving can affect your health

Dangerous driving – Five ways driving can affect your health

Driving – it’s essential for some of us, a chore for others and real pleasure for the rest. But what if we told you that driving can seriously damage your health?

Before we get into the facts about how driving damages your health, here are some statistics for you:

• from all modes of transport, most of the miles travelled, either as the driver or as a passenger, in the UK, are done in a car – 78% to be exact

• driving is the most common form of getting to work – 47% of people have a sedentary commute

• one in ten people spend between 30 minutes and an hour on their commute per day

When you consider these numbers, it’s pretty important that you keep yourself informed of the potential risks to your health. If you don’t, you could end up with some pretty nasty and potentially painful symptoms.

And, don’t worry, where there are problems, there are solutions. And, over the next few weeks, we’ll address each of the problems detailed below.

So let’s get on with it, here’s the first health problem you could be exposing yourself to while on your daily commute:

1. You get less time to move

Physical activity is vital for keeping our bodies healthy and functioning as they should. But long commutes aren’t that great for being active, unless you’re walking or on a bike that is. However, for most of you, your commute involves sitting in a car, which severely restricts your ability to move about, and this can have some quite serious health consequences, so research tells us.

In fact, the longer your commute, the more your fitness levels will drop. This may lead to weight gain and your blood pressure will probably go up. Both of which are not good for your wellbeing.

2. Your patience gets severely tested

Being stuck in traffic, dealing with other drivers, pedestrians, dogs, roadworks, tailgaters… you get the picture, can all test your patience to the limit. This has a knock-on effect on your stress levels, sending them sky high.

Again, we’re sure we don’t need to tell you the negative effects of stress on a body – they’re well known. But what might surprise you is that these effects can start to occur after only 30 minutes in your car.

And the stress that’s caused by driving can then set up a negative cycle making you less attentive at the wheel. In fact, a study by road safety charity Brake, showed that 71% of those asked said they’d lost concentration on the road in the past year due to stress. Obviously we don’t need to tell you how dangerous losing concentration on a busy road can be.

3. Your blood pressure rises short-term and long-term too

Now, long term blood pressure rises can’t come as much of a surprise, given that stress and less exercise are both causes. But short-term spikes in blood pressure also occur. These are caused by driving in hectic traffic, like in rush hour, and are made worse if you’re feeling like you’re going to be late for work or a meeting.

And the effects of high blood pressure are damaging in so many ways. Too many to cover here in fact, so we’ll let the Blood Pressure Uk give you the sobering news.

4. You slouch

Are you one of those drivers who makes sure they sit upright, in the correct position, shoulders aligned, back straight? Or are you a sloucher/leaner/almost horizontal kind of driver? It makes a difference, and for 14% of the population that difference means back or neck pain. In fact, according to the British Chiropractic Association, 32,000 people visit their practitioners every month.

The problem is that slouching can lead to short-term pain and long-term damage too. For example, sitting in a slouched position for a long period of time can make your shoulders permanently rounded, which can lead on to the degeneration of your spinal joints, something you really don’t want.

And as there were more sick days ‘lost to back, neck and muscle pain than any other cause’in the UK in recent statistics, it’s a good idea to try to keep yourself healthy and pain-free.

Sick days lost due to neck and back pain

5. Your eyes get strained

It’s not difficult to see how you could strain your eyes when driving, the constant movement and concentration should give you a hint. And squinting doesn’t help either. When you squint to focus on things, or keep out bright light, you tire out the muscles around your eyes really quickly. So if you drive for an hour to work, you could be straining your eyes significantly before you’ve even started your working day.

The effects of eye strain can be blurred/doubled vision, watering of the eyes, sensitivity to glare, headaches and an inability to focus – all of which can be dangerous when you’re driving. And an extreme version of this kind of eye fatigue is ‘road hyponosis’ or ‘zoning’ – that’s where you drive to work but don’t remember it. We bet there are lots of you who can identify with that.

So, there you have it – five ways in which driving can damage your health. But, like we said, don't worry because we’re are here to give you the answer to these problems. Come back next Friday to see the first of our solutions – exercises you can do in your car.

And just for fun – find out how many hours, and how much money, you’ll spend over your lifetime with this fun calculator, provided by Ford.