New year diet fads can lead to more than yo-yo weight-loss, according to the RAC Foundation, who are today (7) highlighting the impact that food can have on driving ability.
Unhealthy lifestyles pose a serious threat to road safety. Fatigue and stress can be caused by irregular and unhealthy meals* and with fatigue accounting for 20% of crashes on motorways** a New Year crash diet is likely to cause havoc with the figure in more ways than one.
The RAC Foundation's recipe for New Year fodder 'fit for the road' includes***;
Incorporating carbohydrates but separating the good, the bad and the ugly. A sugary cereal start to the day will leave drivers feeling drained before they even step through the door at work. A diet rich in low GI, slow energy releasing foods, is much more suitable for providing drivers with the right fuel. Miss out carbohydrates altogether and drivers risk taking their rising anger and tension out on the tarmac with potentially disastrous consequences.
Coffee can make drivers more alert, but tolerance to the drink differs from person to person. Two cups of coffee may lead to better concentration for some, but an increased edginess in others. Regardless of tolerance, coffee should not be relied upon to keep drivers alert whilst behind the wheel. However, if you are thinking of giving up caffeine in the New Year beware, as withdrawal can lead to fatigue, a deadly effect for drivers.
Pump up the iron to keep fatigue and lethargy at bay. A bowl of iron rich cereal or sardines on toast will help create the desired alert driving style****
The fuel that goes into powering our bodies is essential for good motoring behaviour and this should not be forgotten in the New Year, when shaping up quickly becomes the priority for many.
Poor diet habits add to the problem of fatigue on UK roads. The RAC Foundation fact file on fatigue finds that;
An estimated 300 people a year are killed when a driver has fallen asleep at the wheel**.
Driver tiredness accounts for 10% of all fatalities in the UK - this equates to seven people a week*****.
As many as one in ten of all crashes on Britain's roads are attributable to fatigue**.
If you fall asleep at the wheel you are 50% more likely to die or suffer serious injury because a sleeping driver does not react before a crash.
The greatest risk of falling asleep at the wheel is between midnight-6am and 2-4pm**.
Men aged 30 years and under are more likely to fall asleep at the wheel, and seem to be at a higher risk because they use the roads more at night. They are also more likely to press on with a journey when tired******.
Sheila Rainger, Acting Director of the RAC Foundation says, 'Many people focus on loosing weight after the indulgence of the festive season, but drastically changing your diet can have consequences beyond the waistline. Getting back into the swing of things after time off can be draining enough, but when you add low energy levels caused by diet into the equation, it can spell disaster on the roads. The best advice is to avoid eating foods which are likely to make you feel tired and if you really can't resist the latest diet craze, be sure to leave the car at home when your energy levels are low."
* Research from the Transafe Network in December 2007 See: http://www.fleetnewsnet.co.uk/news/view_article.asp?art_ID=45791&s=view_article
** DfT Think! Road Safety Campaign
*** NS59 Ottley C (2000) Food and Mood. Nursing Standard. 15,2, 46-52 http://www.nursing-standard.co.uk/archives/ns/vol15-02/pdfs/p4652w02.pdf
**** Weight loss resources.co.uk http://www.weightlossresources.co.uk/diet/healthy_diet/iron_rich_food.htm
***** Awake Ltd www.awakeltd.info/about-awake/tiredness-issues.asp
****** Loughborough University sleep research centre