Every year, most of the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims fast as part of the holy month of Ramadan. As well as being a time for reflection, prayer and community, the month is observed by participants as a period of fasting. For approximately 30 days, between sunrise and sunset, adult Muslims refrain from eating, drinking and smoking.
One of the five pillars of Islam, Ramadan is believed to teach Muslims empathy for the less fortunate, as well as how to sacrifice, and practice self-discipline. And while this holy month is cherished by Muslims around the world, being described as “a period of reflection and spiritual growth”, the fasting comes with inherent risks.
For example, blood sugar levels will be much lower than usual, which, combined with dehydration, can lead to a loss of concentration, dizziness and headaches. In addition, sleeping patterns often change for Muslims during Ramadan, as they can only eat later at night and earlier in the day. This can lead to a lack of sleep, which can also cause impaired performance. All of this can affect individuals in a number of ways, including inhibiting their ability to drive.
With fasting affecting an individual’s cognitive functions, this also makes reaction times and spatial perception — both of which are essential for driving — much worse. In addition, drivers can also experience a lack of concentration and sore eyes. As a result, they are more likely to miss road signs, fail to check blind spots and even lose control of their vehicle, hugely upping the potential for accidents.
These risks are evidently serious, so what can Muslim drivers observing Ramadan in this way do to minimise the possibility of collisions on the road?
Don’t drive when feeling worse for wear
The most obvious precaution is simply not to drive in the first place when feeling tired or ill — it’s simply not worth the risk. Be sure to rest up and refresh yourself before getting behind the wheel, perhaps by having a power nap if you don’t have time to sleep properly, or travel by public transport instead. If you start to feel unwell while driving, pull over as soon as possible and rest until you feel better.
Follow safety rules down to a T
Of course, you should always follow safety rules when driving a vehicle, but you should be even more mindful of doing this during Ramadan. Some of the most important rules to follow include wearing a seatbelt, avoiding tailgating, and keeping to the speed limit. The last point is particularly important considering speeding is a factor in over a quarter of traffic fatalities.
See and be seen
Another big cause of road accidents is poor visibility, and when you’re already functioning below your optimum level, it’s even more imperative that you can see properly, and that others can see you while driving. So, before you head out, make sure that your headlights, tail lights, and indicators are clean and functioning properly. You should also clean your windows to remove any dirt which could impact your ability to see clearly.
Be extra considerate
Depending on where you are, many other drivers on the road may be in the same boat as you. So, be particularly polite and considerate to others, as they too might be driving more carelessly than usual for the same reasons. Try not to get too riled up and angry at anybody, as this is only going to inflame any situations and increase the possibility of a collision
Plan journeys more carefully
With your driving performance likely to be affected during Ramadan, you might want to avoid rush hour traffic throughout the month. Driving during these times can be daunting, considering how busy the roads will be, especially in more crowded cities. By only getting behind the wheel outside of rush hour periods, you’ll be able to drive more comfortably, reducing your risk of being involved in an accident.
Avoid unnecessary journeys
As well as paying more attention to when you drive, it’s also crucial that you think about whether driving is a good idea in the first place. If it’s not absolutely necessary for you to get behind the wheel, then consider skipping or using alternate means like public transport, walking or cycling. After all, it is much better to be safe than sorry.