THE HEALTH EFFECTS OF DRIVING BY DR. SYLVESTER IKHISEMOJE

The art of driving is one of the most stressful jobs in the world. In places like Nigeria, driving itself resembles war. Despite that fact, many people do not give driving a second thought when they get behind the steering, start their engines and zoom off to wherever it is they want to go.


However, this is also one of the most dangerous jobs on earth with the risk of dying or suffering minor, moderately severe and severe injuries as a result of which some would experience life-changing events that would permanently alter their lives.

In Nigeria, road traffic accidents are the third leading cause of death in the country. In January 2018 alone according to the Federal Road Safety Corps, there were 456 reported deaths from more than 800 motor vehicle accidents across the nation. More than 3,400 people were injured. In the previous month of December, 2017 there were more than 550 people killed in road traffic accidents. In most of these incidents, excessive speeding and reckless driving were to blame for the accidents. 

In the United States of America, there are about 6 million road traffic accidents every year with more than 90 deaths occurring every day from them. That figure translates to nearly 40,000 deaths annually from road traffic accidents and that is in a country with strict speed limits. In this less chaotic road traffic as seen in the US, some three million Americans still suffer injuries resulting from such accidents. These are humbling statistics that should alter our behaviour while on the road for the better.

Other related health risks of driving include anxiety and undue agitation. These are factors related to the peculiarities of driving on Nigerian roads, the presence of all sorts of competitors for the available road space such as cart-pushers, truck-pushers, and commercial motorcycle riders, pedestrians crossing major roads at unexpected points, commercial bus drivers and the new menace of tricycles.  Some of these road users compound the chaos by willfully driving their various vehicles against the flow of traffic in both the cities and the country roads. When accidents occur therefore, they are often severe with many cases going unreported.

The sheer effort made therefore to travel even a short distance is a problematic one and makes people arrive at their destination irritable, sweaty and tired. If the destination is the work place and this individual commutes from a significant distance, the effect can be better imagined. The work output is then poorer, diligence is shoddy and the individual is often in a hurry to do tasks that ordinarily would command his undivided attention. 

Attention span diminishes and the person is always tired. It is a vicious cycle that often can lead to other problems. In at least two cases known personally to me, there are women who do not drive their cars unless they have swallowed a tablet of the drug bromazepam. They argue that the medication helps them to cope with the madness but the brutal fact is that they are now addicted to that drug; they are unable to drive safely without taking it.

As the quality of sleep worsens, the person tends to gain weight. This sort of weight gain not based on diet but on stress tends to make such people prone to developing high blood pressure, obesity and heart disease. The trend is not one that could command a lot of attention from health workers but it follows logic that one who is weary in the morning is not likely to walk any significant distance if he has a car; they would rather drive. 
The person who takes at least 8,000 steps per day is effectively burning calories. It is noteworthy that such an individual who chooses to walk rather than to drive where possible is less likely to succumb to any of these conditions. 
Of all those health effects, the problem of heart disease and high blood pressure are the most worrisome for any driver. The addition of traffic related anxiety or even terror to these issues can bring a serious health emergency about such as a stroke while driving or a heart attack.
Finally is the specter of drug addiction that should also concern us. And by drugs here is meant the habit of taking any substance at all before commencing on a road trip. 
We have seen the two Bromazepam women above. Others take stronger medicines. Some take alcohol which is a surprise but one which allows them to behave like animals if necessary. Once under these unusual influences, such people become a danger to themselves and to other road users. It is a huge and growing problem.


Source:https://punchng.com/the-health-effects-of-driving/

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