Driving While Fasting
It’s 2019 and the holy month of Ramadan is upon yet again in Malaysia and the rest of the world. During this month, Muslims all over the world begin fasting during the day and only eat at night. Did you know that throughout the rest of the year, people fast for many other reasons as well? It’s true! People fast for both religious and nonreligious reasons, like for medical purposes, for fitness (like with intermittent fasting), or even simply as a method to detoxify the body.
No matter what the reason for fasting, people still need to get around for work or leisure and will need to drive under those fasted conditions. While fasting may be good for our bodies and our souls, there are a few challenges that it brings to the experience of operating a motor vehicle.
Here’s a couple of things you need to know about your body when it’s in a fasted state, along with how it might affect your driving and what steps to take to manage the challenges involved.
This is quite a debatable side effect of fasting: some people claim that fasting causes their concentration to become slightly foggier. They say that it makes it tougher for them to think quickly and accurately, which affects their driving. On the other hand, people who are used to fasting say that it causes their concentration to become even sharper than normal. This is probably because their bodies are not spending any energy on their digestion so they feel like their minds have become supercharged as a result.
Things like these are highly subjective, which is why the key here is to be very self-aware. You have to be aware of how high or low your concentration levels are at any point in time, and be extra cautious if you feel that your concentration is somehow diminished. If you think it is unsafe for you to drive, then you have to be honest with yourself and do not drive at all. Take alternative means of transportation, carpool with a friend or family member, or rest until you are ready to drive.
Your Energy Levels
Driving is a very physically-demanding activity, which is why your energy levels are key factor in how well you do it. Not only does your energy level influence your levels of concentration as mentioned above, it also affects your ability to drive safely and maintain good emotions while doing so.
People react physically to fasting very differently from one another, so while some people might feel extra energetic and even euphoric, others may feel lethargic and tired instead. This is especially true in the context of Muslims fasting for Ramadan, because it involves a change in daily sleep patterns. Muslims who fast during Ramadan typically wake up early in the morning to have one final meal for “sahur” before the daily fast begins, and soon after that they go back to sleep for a few hours before waking again to start their daily routines.
This type of disruption in sleep patterns can affect your energy and concentration throughout the day which will have a strong impact on your driving. Always think about whether or not you have the energy to actually drive all the way to your home or place of work safely, especially if it involves getting stuck in traffic jams. If you don’t think you have the energy for it, there are always other options to get you to where you need to be.
Additionally, fasting for any reason can make you ‘hangry’ (hungry + angry). We as human beings tend to get just a little bit more aggressive when we haven’t eaten for awhile, and this can be made even worse when we’re behind the wheel of a car. Bad drivers, people who cut us off, or even people who steal our parking spaces all contribute towards our negative emotional state, and we must be aware of these things in order to manage them before they become a problem for us.
Seeing all of this, it's clear that fasting can impact your driving by influencing your concentration, energy levels, and emotional states. So what can you do to manage these issues better?
There are a few methods we can use to make our fasted drives safer. For starters, make full use of your car’s air conditioner! Having a constant flow of cold air under our hot Malaysian climate serves to keep us feeling refreshed so that we may fight off exhaustion and tiredness. Additionally, the constant flow of fresh oxygen helps to keep our minds as sharp as they can be, so that we can drive safely and attentively.
To be extra careful, be sure to put even more distance than usual between yourself and the vehicles around you, while also making sure that you’re driving at a reduced speed. This is to ensure that you have ample time to notice and react to any dangers that might come your way, therefore keeping yourself and everyone else on the road much safer.
Don’t be afraid to take lots of breaks! Give yourself a power nap before you drive, and don’t be afraid to stop at the R&R stops along the highway to take another one if you need to. Park your car, get some fresh air, walk around and stretch your legs, and wash your face. That’s what those R&R stops were built for in the first place! If you are driving in urban areas, don’t forget that petrol stations serve pretty much the same function as R&Rs do on highways. They have places to park and toilets where you can freshen up before you continue on your journey.
Most importantly, when it’s time to break your fast, do it! Don’t try to power through until you reach your destination, just stop somewhere safe and have a quick bite and a drink. Thankfully, petrol stations across Malaysia these days are well-stocked with snacks and drinks that will give you the boost you need at the right time. During peak seasons like Chinese New Year and Hari Raya Aidilfitri, many of these petrol stations even have promotions or free giveaways of coffee and snacks!
Better yet, be prepared with a light snack in your car even before you go on your drive. A bottle of water and some biscuits are all you really need!
At the end of the day, the only person who can decide if you should drive or not is yourself. Driving while in a fasted state can be quite challenging, but as long as you take the necessary steps to reduce the risks and manage the challenges that you face, you’ll do just fine!