Millions of Americans earn some or all of their income through driving. Whether you are a commercial truck driver, taxi driver, bus driver, delivery driver, or ride-share driver, protecting your health and safety while you are behind the wheel is critical. When driving is a key component of your work, your vehicle is akin to your office. You should do what you can to ensure that your workspace remains healthy and that you avoid potential dangers that could put you and others at risk of serious injuries.
Fortunately, there are multiple things that you can do to help to protect your health and safety while you drive. We’ll discuss some of these steps below.
- Protect Your Physical Health Through Exercise.
Spending hours behind the wheel of a vehicle each day can take a serious toll on your body. To help prevent muscle atrophy and excess weight gain, it is important for you to ensure that you counteract the hours of sitting by getting plenty of exercise when you are not behind the wheel. Sitting in one position for hours can also stress your joints. Whenever you can, take advantage of rest breaks throughout the day to stretch your muscles and exercise. Take a short walk to loosen up stiff joints and muscles and perform stretching exercises. When you are not working, try to get in some cardiovascular exercise and strength training, taking care to work out every day for at least 150 minutes per week.
When you are behind the wheel, pay attention to your posture. Many back and neck problems can be traced to sitting with poor posture. Sit upright in your seat so that you do not place too much pressure on your shoulders and lower back. Make sure that your seat is not too far back so that it is easier for you to maintain a good driving posture.
- Make Sure to Get Plenty of Sleep.
According to the Sleep Foundation, adults between the ages of 18 and 64 need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. However, more than one-third of U.S. adults report regularly getting less than seven hours of sleep on average. If you regularly get inadequate sleep, you run the risk of being fatigued when you drive during the day. Driving for hours can exacerbate sleep deprivation and increase your risk of being involved in an accident caused by drowsy driving.
Avoid screen time for at least an hour before bed, and make sure you go to bed at a regular time each night. Try to get at least seven hours of sleep every night. While you are driving, drink caffeinated drinks to help you remain alert. Pull off the road every two hours to take a short rest break. If you start to feel tired and find that your mind is wandering away from the road, pull off and take a rest break even if it has not been two hours since your last one.
- Choose Nutritious Food.
It can be difficult to eat healthily while you are on the road. However, making better eating choices can help you to protect your health and remain more alert while you drive. If the only options along your route are fast food restaurants, opt for more nutritious items on their menus. For example, choose a grilled chicken sandwich over a quarter-pound cheeseburger and opt for nutritious sides such as fruit. Making healthful eating a habit can help to protect your overall health and your waistline.
- Protect Yourself From the Sun.
Depending on your vehicle, the windows might not provide enough protection to your eyes and skin from the sun’s harmful rays. Long-term damage from UV rays can cause damage that can potentially lead to skin cancer. Make sure to use high SPF, full-spectrum sunscreen while you drive to protect yourself from skin damage. You should also wear high-quality sunglasses to protect your eyes and allow you to see objects in the road more easily when the sun is in your eyes.
- Avoid Distractions While You Drive.
Distracted driving can quickly result in serious accidents. Whenever you are behind the wheel, you should avoid operating your smartphone, sending or reading text messages, looking at apps or GPS, and eating. Anything that takes your attention, eyes, and hands away from the act of driving could cause an accident. Keep your attention focused on the road at all times, and keep your hands on the wheel. If you need to look at a map, pull to the side of the road to do so. Choose a hands-free set if you need to remain in communication with dispatch, but try to keep any distractions to a minimum whenever you drive.
- Keep an Emergency Kit in Your Vehicle.
When you drive for a living, you run the risk of accidents or being stranded because of inclement weather or mechanical issues. You should keep an emergency kit in your vehicle to use in the event of an unexpected catastrophe. Make sure that you have a first aid kit in your vehicle with bandages, antiseptic, gauze, scissors, and over-the-counter pain relievers. You should also keep a warm blanket and clothes in your vehicle in case you are stranded in cold weather. Make sure to have high visibility gear and road flares so that you can remain safe and alert other drivers if you are stopped on the road or involved in an accident.
- Always Practice Defensive Driving.
Defensive driving involves more than simply knowing how to drive. Instead, being a good defensive driver means that you always follow the traffic laws and exercise good driving habits. When you drive, you should do all of the following:
- Always pay attention to your surroundings.
- Watch for potential hazards, including vehicles that might pull into your lane.
- Keep enough distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you to avoid a potential rear-end collision.
- Never drive while impaired.
- Minimize distractions.
- Ensure that you keep your vehicle in good working condition.
The goal of driving defensively is to place you in a position in which you can be proactive and not reactive. Defensive driving can help to protect you, your passengers, and others around you safe.
- Familiarize Yourself With Your Area.
Whether you are a commercial truck driver or a ride-share driver, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the area in which you will be driving. While GPS can help to prevent you from getting lost, understanding the traffic patterns and areas where you can safely stop your vehicle is important. Taking a short amount of time to look up this information can help to prevent collisions.
- Be Cautious if Your Work Involves Transporting Passengers.
Uber, Lyft, and taxi drivers all have additional risks because they regularly pick up and transport passengers. While most passengers are safe, it is important for you to have a plan in case you happen to pick up a passenger who is assaultive or dangerous. Having a plan can help to prevent Uber and Lyft driver injury incidents from assaults and accidents.
Always make sure that your passengers ride in the back. While you can let a passenger ride in front when you are a ride-share driver, doing so is not a good idea. Making your passengers ride in the back helps to increase the distance between you and them. Your seats also can serve as an additional barrier. If a passenger becomes belligerent or assaultive, making him or her ride in the back will give you more time to stop your vehicle, exit, and protect yourself.
You should also keep a dashboard cam in your vehicle to document your interactions with passengers. A dashboard cam can also serve as a visual deterrent to people riding in your vehicle since they know that what they do will be on tape.
If someone does behave badly, don’t hesitate to report it. If someone acts in a way that makes you feel as if you are threatened, stop your car and tell the passenger to get out. Report what happened to Uber or Lyft, and notify the police if you are assaulted. Reporting badly behaving passengers can help to protect others from encountering them and being placed in danger in the future.
- Make Sure to Relax at the End of Your Day.
In addition to taking regular driving breaks during the day, you should also make sure that you relax when your driving shift is over. Do something that helps you to relieve stress. Over time, stress can negatively impact both your physical and mental health. Consider listening to music you enjoy, meditating, playing sports, or participating in a hobby that you enjoy. Avoid drinking alcohol or drugs to try to relieve stress because substances only mask stress and can cause other problems.
These are only a few of the many tips you can follow to keep yourself and others safe when you drive for a living. However, following these tips can help you to avoid accidents and injuries while also protecting your health.