Effects of Traffic Hold-Up on Health

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Some of the inevitabilities of life are death, taxes, and rush-hour traffic, the last two come with their own form of pressure on our health and might lead to the first one.

I grew up with a strong allergic reaction to traffic pull-ups, whenever I’m in one, my temperature goes up, I have been lucky to some extent that my school or workplaces haven’t been far from where I live; that might have helped in my not having a strong immunity to it.

Unless you are lucky to live not far from your work or school, you might end up spending a decent fraction of your life on Earth in traffic. For most, there is little you can do once you are engaged in some form of productive venture because even if you live near your job or business, you still might have to venture out on trips to clients’ places.

I was in traffic so bad that I was in one spot for over three hours, when I finally got home, I opened the door of my Jeep and tried to step down. When I put my two feet on the ground, I fell to the ground and couldn’t move, I thought I was paralyzed, but for the pain, I felt in some parts of my legs, it seems my legs had fallen asleep while in traffic.

Another time it was so bad, I was in traffic for over 5 hours when my car started overheating, so I had to stop using the AC. I was stuck between two trucks, and their exhaust was spilling carbon monoxide into my car. I was so hot, tired, and weak that I got out of my car and wanted to give my car keys to a team of policemen on patrol and ask them to help me bring my car home while I walked. A few people talked me out of it, but I was able to make it into an estate, where I packed my car and walked home.

One of the reasons why we have such a low life expectancy is the number of hours we spend sedentary, while we are built for mobility and we aren’t built for this amount of time in traffic. Then there is also the effect on family life. When you have to rush out of the house early in the morning and get home just before midnight, the only time you have to spend with family is maybe at the weekend.

Long road traffic can have several negative effects on the human body, including:

Physical stress: Sitting for long periods in a confined space can lead to physical stress, particularly on the lower back, neck, and legs.

Mental fatigue: Prolonged Road traffic can cause mental fatigue, leading to decreased concentration and reaction times.

Poor posture: Sitting in a cramped position for long periods can cause poor posture, leading to pain and discomfort.

Eye strain: Staring at the road for long periods can cause eye strain, leading to headaches, blurred vision, and eye fatigue.

Air pollution: Exposure to air pollution from car exhaust fumes can lead to respiratory problems, such as asthma, bronchitis, and other lung diseases.

Noise pollution: Prolonged exposure to road traffic noise can cause hearing problems, stress, and sleep disturbances.

Dehydration: Not drinking enough water while driving can lead to dehydration, leading to fatigue, headaches, and decreased cognitive function.

Over time, the effects of long hours in road traffic on human health have become:

  • Stress and anxiety; sleep deprivation; increased risk of accidents Heart problems
  • Back and neck pain, poor diet, and physical inactivity decreased immune system function
  • Eye strain and headaches increase the risk of obesity and decrease overall well-being.

All these affect productivity and well-being, so solutions would have to be found, like:

It is important to take breaks, stretch, stay hydrated, and protect yourself from air and noise pollution while driving.

There is a need for a better work-life balance, there has to be a better system than the old plantation version of working a crew to death because there was always a cheap, ready replacement. There needs to be a justification for bringing people to work for half a day at the office on Fridays.

Yes, there are productivity targets to be met, but the lockdown period shows us how to rethink work.

In this part of the world, remote working has infrastructural challenges like power and the internet, but if we can get fewer people on the road on a workday, it would increase productivity for those that have the option of either coming to the office or staying at home.

Those who have no options but to turn up five days a week should be made more aware of its effects on their health and try to get some relief through breaks, walks, exercise, and rest.

Traffic is a function of urban misplanning, economic stagnation, and mass urban migration; we can’t all be rushing to the same spots at once. One of the lessons from COVID-19 was that we can use video conferencing through Zoom and Skype for meetings, we don’t have to be rushing on the road to get basic information and reports. Another way is hybrid working, where some days work can be done from home.

By being more aware, HR would come up with more solutions. In my HR business partner classes, we were told that HR should be right up there with the CFO and COO in crafting policies and strategy because it’s people who would execute them and someone in that meeting should be speaking up for the people.

OVIGHO RICHARD OKOJEVOH-CIEH.SMC.PMP is a Scrum Master Certified, Project Management & HSE Professional, and the Executive Secretary of the Society for Health, Safety, and Environmental Education.