New research from Admiral car insurance is warning motorists about the danger of driving while hungry as its latest investigation finds that almost a quarter of drivers (24%) skip one meal per day during any given day, with one in 10 people confessing they typically skip two meals per day during the week.
The investigation found that over two thirds (68%) of drivers could be starting their
journey behind the wheel while feeling hungry, with 14% of those saying that’s a
situation they regularly find themselves in. With over 30 million cars on the road across the UK, there could be more than 4 million hungry drivers on the road every day
The number of hungry drivers on the roads in the UK is perhaps not surprising when you consider that over 20% of people wait until they get to work before they eat anything. (Many Northern Rail commuters seem to wait until they’re work to have a wash – Ed) One in 10 drivers admit that driving while hungry impacts their ability to concentrate behind the wheel and almost 15% admit that feeling thirsty also affects their driving ability.
Worryingly, 7% of drivers say that driving while feeling hungry makes them take longer to react to situations on the road. When questioned, almost one in 10 (8%) of people who have had a road accident confessed that feeling irritable due to hunger played a part in their mishap. Similarly, 10% of drivers who have had a ‘near-miss’ said their irritability caused by hunger had played a part in what happened.
But it’s not just concentration levels that are impacted by low food-intake, drivers also admit to getting angry when driving while hungry with 7% of motorists confessing that it causes them to shout at other drivers. That means there could be as many as 2.1million ‘Hangry’ drivers on UK roads. A further 6% admitted that driving while hungry makes them get angry with their passengers, with more than one in 20 (6%) saying that it makes them more likely to speed.
Commenting on the findings of Admiral’s investigation, Dr Lisa Dorn, Professor of Driver
Behaviour at Cranfield University said: “Many people will be embarking on new, often
lower-calorie diets as one of their new year’s resolutions for 2020, but they should consider the impact it can have on their concentration behind the wheel. One of the worst habits to avoid is skipping breakfast before driving as this will raise your blood sugar and lead to low energy levels – your reaction times will be much slower and this can affect your ability to respond to hazards on the road which could have potentially dangerous consequences.
“Eating a healthy diet improves your brain function and therefore helps you stay alert when it matters. Starting the day with a healthy breakfast will keep your energy levels up and that will help you stay focused and less stressed on the road in the morning rush hour. It also puts you in a better mood behind the wheel which is better and safer not just for yourself but for other drivers too.”
Admiral found that 45% of drivers didn’t think they would be able to drive further than 75 miles in the car without needing a snack, with over a quarter of people saying they couldn’t drive further than 50 miles before needing fuel for themselves. One in 10 drivers say they keep snacks in their car to eat during their journey to work, and
this figure increases to 27% of drivers who keep snacks to hand for long distance journeys.
The nation’s favourite car snacks
When asked their snack of choice for car journeys, 30% of drivers opted for sweets, with a quarter of drivers preferring a chocolate bar (26%) or sandwich (24%) instead. Meanwhile nearly two fifths (8%) of drivers would reach for a coffee to keep the hunger at bay while driving – something Dr Dorn warns against.
“It’s important not to rely on caffeine to keep you alert when driving. Instead, make sure you get plenty of sleep as a coffee isn’t a like-for-like substitute.”
Dr Dorn added: “We’ve all experienced that lethargic feeling after eating too much
unhealthy food but research has shown that eating the wrong types of food and drink can also affect your driving abilities, impacting your mood and increasing driver fatigue which can have a negative effect on drivers’ behaviour.
“You should avoid eating a heavy lunch as this can make you feel even more drowsy behind the wheel in the afternoon. Stick to whole grains, lean meats, low-fat dairy products, fruit and vegetables instead if you want to stay alert. For snacks, fruit and oat-based snacks which are low in calories and high in nutrients are best for concentration. These healthy habits will keep your energy levels within a safe range and help your mental functioning whilst driving.”