How much driving is too much? How many hours, or how far is it safe to drive in one day? Though the true answer is extremely subjective, as some drivers can easily tolerate longer drives, while others are fatigued by the rigours of such trips, it is fair to assume objectively that most people drive too much – especially as they could be travelling in a more active and environmentally-friendly manner.
We are currently (pardon the atrocious pun) a rather driven society; as ever more people move into large cities and join the urban workforce, commute times are stretching due to poor and outdated roadways. Research shows that spending more than 2 hours on the road every day greatly influences to the driver’s health. An Australian study of nearly 40,000 people compared daily schedules and a handful of health factors and determined that, compared to non-drivers, those who spent 2 or more hours driving were nearly twice as likely to sleep poorly and over 75% more likely to be obese; regular drivers were also reported as over 40% more likely to rate their quality of life as poor and a third more likely to feel psychologically distressed; furthermore, they were more likely to smoke and to fall below the recommended level of weekly exercise.
It is clear that sitting continuously for hours at a time is bad for one’s health; additionally, such sedentary behaviour can be harmful to the brain as it can be less active after several hours at the wheel and given that the stress and fatigue can cause cognitive declines over time as we must constantly monitor our own vehicle and surroundings, but also be alert for hazards and obstacles in our path.
In addition to the physical stresses of sitting for long periods of time, and dealing with obstacles and other drivers, in our increasingly over-scheduled and hectic lives, we cannot afford idle time; and commute times are as good as wasted. Unless the driver is, as is far too common, multitasking at the wheel, leading to distracted drivers. Thankfully, many states are drafting laws to prevent distracted driving, such as the requirement for hands-free mobile phone use.
Another danger of excessive driving is from the harmful emissions and greenhouse gasses; while the latter impacts the environment and climate, the former can have a detrimental effect on the driver as well who is breathing in hundreds of gallons of pollution-laden air during their hour-long trips to and from their workplaces.