Driving advice from CLASP - Supporting mental health over the winter season

Posted on 14 December 2016 by Charity Car

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As weather conditions deteriorate and nights draw in, it's getting to that time of year when it is even more important that people pay close attention during their daily commutes. Not only are drivers affected by light and weather conditions, Autumn and Winter can often bring with them numerous negative mental health symptoms such as depression and anxiety.

According to our Charity Car scheme's latest Official Partner - CLASP Charity - 1 in 4 people suffering from mental illness due to medical conditions, daily situations and seasonal adjustment disorder every year. People often experience symptoms that mimic clinical depression but these symptoms are exclusive to the winter season. And these conditions can have a significant impact on driver safety.

Obviously CarTakeBack is keen to recycle the public's old cars and we are delighted to see them donated via Charity Car to partners such as CLASP. But we don't want to hear those cars have come through either of those services due to accidents!

The Counselling Life Advice Suicide Prevention Charity also known as CLASP Charity, is the first cause of its kind - focused on increasing mental health awareness, suicide prevention and ending mental illness stigma. Founder Kenny Johnston tells us:

"Having a mental illness does not always mean you cannot drive safely. But some drivers need to take extra care or they may become too unwell to drive. It's important to be aware of yourself, the road conditions and the impact your mental wellbeing can have on that situation. Just small changes to your routine can make a huge difference. Please take our advice and stay safe this winter, physically and mentally."

So while we all get used to this colder, darker time of the year, CLASP and Charity Car has put together six very simple but effective pointers for safer, more stress-free, winter driving.

1. Relax before you start the car

Start the car only when you are relaxed and ready. A good driver is aware of all aspects of their vehicle and the road, so if you are not relaxed and focused, you might find yourself being reactive to an accident instead of proactive in preventing one. Knowing you are relaxed can become part of your routine with putting your seat belt on and really help you to focus on the task at hand.

2. Don’t skip meals and eat or drink whilst driving

Eating might be the last thing on your mind, but without food you don’t have the brain fuel to maintain concentration. Eating or drinking water before you set off will help you concentrate. That doesn't mean you have to schedule a full meal; a banana and a glass of water will do.

There has also been an increase in accidents over the years from people eating while driving, so please make sure you have both hands on the steering wheel and not one holding a sandwich.

3. Leave early to avoid rushing and speeding

Try to leave 10/15 minutes before you need to so you are not in a hurry should you encounter traffic delays during your commute. Driving in a hurry can cause added and unnecessary stress, as well as accidents due to speeding or taking unnecessary and illegal risks.

4. Stay off the caffeine

You might think you need that caffeine hit before setting off, particularly if you've been awake all night worrying, but drinking too much caffeine before driving can actually make you feel more agitated and nervous. Instead, drink plenty of water or something naturally calming such as a camomile tea.

5. Go to the toilet before you set off

We don’t have to elaborate do we? Suffice to say, you don’t need any added distractions when driving or to feel trapped if you get stuck in heavy traffic. Particularly after all the water we've advised you drink!

6. Check mental health requirements with the DVLA

You may not be aware that there are some mental illnesses that you have to tell the DVLA about, and they may ask you to have a medical examination or a driving assessment. The DVLA will consider your safety and may decide to give you a licence that is valid for 1 to 3 years and in some cases they may take your licence away. You have the legal right to appeal their decision if your licence is revoked, and of course you can reapply for it when your condition has improved.

If your doctor says you are not fit to drive, you must surrender your licence. If you continue to drive when your doctor says you shouldn’t it will affect your insurance policy.

If you want to support mental health awareness you can donate to CLASP, and of course we will be welcoming old car donations via our Charity Car scheme to help this worthy cause.

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