Consider these 4 tips for a healthier and safer driving experience.
You may already know about the hazards of driving that come from outside your car. You probably also know how to avoid them:
Wear your seatbelt.
Don’t drive intoxicated, distracted, exhausted, or while texting.
Drive the speed limit.
Watch out for people who aren’t as careful and responsible as you are.
But fewer of us know about the hazards that come from inside the car. These can either make the consequences of a crash far more dangerous, or contribute to long-term health problems that happen even when you’re no longer behind the wheel.
Here are the four most important and what you can do about them:
This one is an exercise in simple math, and you already know how it works if you’ve ever experienced a “tectonic shift” while taking a sharp turn. The stuff inside your car has inertia just like all other matter which can create a serious hazard in a crash.
Let’s run some numbers:
If you rear-end somebody while you’re doing 10 miles per hour (MPH), the pencil you left on the dashboard will roll forward and bounce off the window. Rear-ending somebody at 35 MPH can actually put that pencil through the windshield.
Now, imagine a head-on collision with both cars going over 40 MPH. Think for a moment about what’s going to happen with that bottle directly behind you.
Less dramatic but potentially worse are the soda bottles, take-out wrappers, mildewed clothes, and similar debris lurking in the back of many vehicles. Research has shown that dirty cars can be a serious breeding ground for bacteria of all sorts, and not all of them are harmless.
Bugs like staphylococcus and E. coli can potentially grow there. Imagine for a moment what might happen if you got nicked by an infected object in even a minor crash.
In short, it’s a good idea to clean up your car (and don’t forget to disinfect!).
We are the sum of our habits. If you spend the American average of 1 hour and 11 minutes per day traveling, how you’re holding your body — posture-wise — matters.
Good posture while driving can help your body, while poor posture carries a lot of potential problems.
Poor posture can result in:
- Slouching. This can contribute to lower back pain.
- Rolling your shoulders forward. This can cause mobility problems in the shoulders and neck.
- Odd leg positioning. This can harm your knees and hips.
- “Riding” the shift. By twisting your wrists, shoulders, and elbows too much, this can cause joint issues (mainly an issue for folks who drive a manual car).
Luckily there are some very straight forward ways to avoid these problems. These include:
- sitting upright, but relaxed
- keeping your hands at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel
- keeping your shoulders above your hips and your knees above where your feet go when not pressing a pedal
- breathing deeply in this strong posture to relieve stress
Results of the study found that adding 20 minutes to your commute increased physical symptoms of stress (like cortisol levels and sleep problems) as much as if you had received a 15 percent cut to your salary.
You need to get to work and sometimes driving is unavoidable. That said, you may have some options that could reduce or shift the stress of that commute.
For example, shifting your start and finish times at a flexible job can cut your drive time drastically by letting you miss the worst parts of rush hour. Shifting to a schedule of four longer days — rather than five shorter ones — cuts your commute by 20 percent. The same goes for negotiating telecommuting one or two days per week.
If your working hours aren’t flexible, the study also found that your mode of commute impacts stress. From worst to best, they found buses, driving alone, other public transportation, ride sharing, biking, and walking had drastically different impacts on your stress levels.
Even leaving 10 minutes early and parking a 10-minute walk away from the office is enough to help reduce stress.
It can get you amped up for a work day to blast your favorite music on your way into work, but the cost may be too much.
Noise-induced hearing loss begins at or above the
That’s not to say you shouldn’t listen to your favorite music during a commute. The health benefits of music are numerous and well established. Just resist the temptation to max out what your stereo can do.
While driving might be unavoidable, there are ways to decrease the possibility of negative effects
While driving can have its hazards, we understand that it may be something that’s unavoidable — whether that’s for work or personal reasons.
Using these tips, however, may help to decrease the possibilities of negative long- and short-term effects, from poor posture to hearing loss. That said, if you do find yourself driving for long periods of time on a daily basis, consider doing something that’s going to work your mind or body after you’re done with your long drive, such as taking a walk, hitting the gym, reading your favorite book, or even spending time with family or friends.
And if you can’t do that, look into safe options for working your brain like listening to audiobooks or driving with friends, coworkers, and loved ones.
Jason Brick is a freelance writer and journalist who came to that career after over a decade in the health and wellness industry. When not writing, he cooks, practices martial arts, and spoils his wife and two fine sons. He lives in Oregon.