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Driving during Ramadan - guidance for driver managers

By Graham Evans
Practice Leader - Risk Solutions

Ramadan is one of the most important religious celebrations in the Islamic calendar during which participants observe strict rules that include fasting between sunrise and sunset and additional prayers. It is important for managers to be aware of Ramadan and its possible impact on employees’ driving abilities...

When Ramadan takes place is determined by the Islamic lunar calendar. As this is 10 to 11 days shorter than the solar year, the dates for Ramadan change each year.

The 2011 Census found Islam to be the second largest religion in the UK with more than two million Muslims, equivalent to around 5% of the UK population. There will therefore be significant numbers of Muslim drivers on the roads during Ramadan.  Research by the Emirates Driving Institute and the Institute of Advanced Motorists indicates that motor accident rates increase across the Gulf States during Ramadan. Muslim drivers and their managers therefore need to be aware of the risks of driving
during Ramadan.

So what are the issues for drivers?

The month of Ramadan involves fasting and extra prayers, which must be strictly observed. But prayers during the night time and skipping meals coupled with eating at different times can have a significant effect on drivers who are observing Ramadan.

During Ramadan, Muslims will eat suhoor, a pre dawn meal, and will not eat through the day until breaking their fast with iftar, the sunset meal. This means blood sugar levels will be low during the late afternoon and early evening.

The mental and physical stresses caused by this regime can cause challenges for Muslim drivers and result in a higher than average accident rate. In particular:

• Low blood sugar levels and dehydration cause loss of concentration, dizziness and headaches.

• Prayer times can disrupt sleep patterns and this can cause daytime drowsiness, poor concentration and reduced alertness.

• The Emirates Driving Institute has researched the issue of driving during Ramadan and has found that fasting affects spatial awareness as well as reaction times including the speed of braking and the speed of reading road signs. Tiredness has been found to increase impatience with other drivers; yawning and daydreaming can result in drivers missing road signs and turns at junctions.

Actions for fleet managers

Managers need to be aware of the additional driving stresses introduced by observing Ramadan. It is suggested that managers meet with Muslim drivers to discuss the ways in which Ramadan can affect driving. Details of the festival should also be communicated to non-Muslim employees to engender a culture of support and awareness. Other recommended steps include:

• Manage drivers’ schedules to reflect the effect on drivers who are observing Ramadan. Longer journeys will be more challenging for Muslim drivers.

• Encourage drivers to take more regular breaks and ‘power naps’ if necessary.

• Support open communication between the management team and Muslim drivers.

• Give drivers a reminder on defensive driving.

Actions for drivers

Drivers should pay particular attention to their safety and that of other road users during Ramadan. We recommend that drivers:

• Adopt a robust schedule to ensure adequate night-time sleep.

• Avoid travelling to work at peak commuting times.

• Give consideration to increased use of public transport.

• Practise defensive driving and keep a safe distance away from the vehicle in front.

• Be aware of feeling fatigued. Drivers should take regular breaks during driving and take a walk away from their vehicle if possible to improve circulation.

• Focus on driving home responsibly at sunset.

• Guard against dehydration.

• Talk openly with colleagues and managers as a team approach can provide support during the fasting period

In summary

Your business needs to be aware of Ramadan and its effect on the driving ability of those who are observing the festival. Journey planning needs to receive additional attention, as does communication to ensure the ‘team approach’ and support for Muslim drivers. Allowing Muslim drivers a few days to return to normal patterns of working after Ramadan should also be encouraged by the management team and non-Muslim colleagues.