Ensuring drivers are in good health has an important part to play in road safety. Industry experts look at the three key areas that could affect driver health.
Good eyesight is a basic requirement for safe driving, with poor vision increasing the risk of collisions due to the driver’s inability to recognise and react in time to a hazard or the behaviour of other road users.
Drivers must be able to read (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary) a car number plate made after September 1, 2001, from 20 metres (65ft) – approximately five car lengths or the width of eight parking bays.
But after passing their test, drivers do not have to take another eye test for the rest of their lives.
Joshua Harris, director of campaigns for road safety charity Brake, said: “It is, frankly, madness that there is no mandatory requirement on drivers to have an eye test throughout the course of their driving life.
"Only by introducing rigorous and professional eye tests can we fully tackle the problem of unsafe drivers on our roads.”
Another safety charity, RoSPA, recommends organisations should advise staff to have their eyes tested at least every two years, or more often if advised by an ophthalmologist.
Wyn Parry, senior doctor at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), said: “The number plate test is a simple and effective way for people to check their eyesight meets the required standards for driving.
“Eyesight can naturally deteriorate over time so anyone concerned about their eyesight should visit their optician – don’t wait for your next check-up.”
Even mild dehydration is equivalent to being over the alcohol drink-driving limit in terms of the number of driver errors committed, according to research from Loughborough University.
“The results suggested mild hypohydration (the uncompensated loss of body water) produced a significant increase in minor driving errors during a prolonged, monotonous drive, compared to that observed while performing the same task in a hydrated condition,” says Ron Maughan, emeritus professor of sport and exercise nutrition.
The levels of driver errors found were similar to those found in people with a blood alcohol content at the England, Wales and Northern Ireland legal driving limit.
“In other words, drivers who are not properly hydrated could make the same number of errors as people over the drink-drive limit,” he adds.
The human body loses and needs to replace two to three litres of water a day. However, as every individual’s body responds differently and weather conditions and activity levels also influence dehydration rates, experts say there is no set amount of water that drivers should consume on a daily basis to remain hydrated.
Instead, says Maughan, driver education programmes should encourage hydration practices.
“Drinking should be sufficient to meet needs and deliberate restriction because of access to toilets should be avoided,” he says.
A poor driving position, such as a badly adjusted seat, can lead to postural problems and neck, arm, leg and back pain, which can exacerbate an existing condition or cause a long-term health problem.
A correctly adjusted head restraint can prevent whiplash issues. RoSPA says staff should be given advice or training on how to ensure that their driving position is correct and head restraints properly used.
Drivers who load goods, or help passengers into and out of vehicles, should also receive manual handling training.
The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy has produced a Drive Free of Pain guide which includes advice for drivers on ensuring they have the correct car set-up and ways to improve posture, plus some simple stretches for when drivers take a break from the wheel.
Recommendations include the driver raising their seat as high as possible for a maximum view of the road, moving the seat forward so the pedal can be depressed fully and being close enough to the steering wheel so that their elbows are bent at a 30˚ to 40˚ angle.