The Physical Challenges of Driving - Fitness for Safe DrivingUpdated Sept. 29, 2020
Most modern vehicles can be operated with relative physical ease, thanks to power brakes and power steering. The challenges associated with driving are predominantly mental challenges, such as perceiving hazards on the roadway or managing multiple tasks at the same time. Though, in some vehicles and situations, driving can still be a physically demanding activity.
Your ability to meet the physical challenge of driving is unlikely to be constant. If you are ill, or physically fatigued, you may not be able to control your vehicle as easily as usual. If you ever doubt your ability to drive safely, stay out of the driver’s seat.
The physical skills required for driving
Many of the physical skills required for driving are taken for granted. To control a vehicle safely, all drivers must be able to:
- Hold their bodies upright
- Exert pressure and maintain grip on the steering wheel
- Exert pressure on the pedals
- Sit in the same position for an extended time
- Reach and adjust mirrors and in-car controls
- Get in and out of the vehicle
- Turn their heads and torsos to view the sides and rear of the vehicle
- Concentrate on driving without being distracted by physical pain or discomfort
Driving does not require a high-level of fitness, but it does demand a moderate-level of muscle strength, flexibility, coordination and adequate range-of-motion in the joints. Always take stock of your physical condition before driving, as even minor physical complaints such as a lightly-sprained ankle or a stiff neck can significantly limit your driving ability.
Managing pain while driving
Keep in mind that many pain medications have a sedative affect and could slow your reaction time or ability to perceive dangers. If you are taking an unfamiliar drug to manage pain as a result of a health condition or injury, be sure to consult your doctor before driving.
The sensory skills required for driving
We do not often think of sensory skills as a type of “physical ability”, but that is exactly what they are. All drivers must be able to see and hear the roadway around them in order to detect dangers and react to the changing road environment. When your hearing or vision are impaired, you may not be able to operate your vehicle safely.
Good vision is considerably more important than good hearing, as it is necessary for seeing hazards, evaluating distances and understanding traffic control devices. If any physical ailment prevents you from seeing or hearing as well as usual (such as a migraine, a burst eardrum or the worsening of a pre-existing disability), you should not drive until you are cleared to do so by your doctor.
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