A prolonged heat wave has been baking much of the US this summer—especially the south. Texas has had record-breaking temperatures and, despite a briefly cooler weather forecast for the next few days, extreme temperatures are expected the rest of August and into September. In fact, the New York Times puts much of Texas in the “danger” and “extreme danger” zones for heat. Temperatures are expected to climb to 107 or 108 this week and may top out even higher on Friday.
We all know the effect torrid temperatures can have on car components including tires, belts, hoses, cables, batteries, and fluids. You want to check these car parts often and make sure they are maintained. If not, they can pose a driving safety risk that could result in an auto wreck and lead to injuries for you and others involved.
But you also need to be aware of how severe heat can affect you, the driver. According to Health News From NPR, “extreme heat can slow cognition and increase anxiety.” Higher temperatures can also affect sleep, and poor sleep can impair reaction time and focus. But there is a body of evidence showing that the heat itself can interfere with cognition.
According to Cedeño Laurent, who conducted a study of university students in Boston, “The magnitude of the effect was really striking. We saw reductions in the order of 10% in their response times and also their accuracy.”
A similar study documented a dip in cognitive performance at air temperatures as low as 79 degrees. Researchers found that rising temperatures affected the nervous system, increasing stress levels. Higher stress can lead to emotional decisions and increase the possibility of road rage.
When you’re driving, poor cognition, divided focus, stress, and emotional upheaval can lead to poor decision-making and slower reaction times that can put you at strong risk of being involved in a car crash.
What can you do? Find ways to keep cool! Avoid spending time outside right now, if you can. Whenever possible, crank that air conditioner. Take cool showers, dress in light clothing, drink plenty of cold drinks, eat lightly, avoid alcohol, and make time for extra sleep—especially during cooler hours of the day.
And remember, the extreme heat doesn’t just affect you. All of the other drivers on the road are dealing with it too, so their cognition and reaction times may be slower as well. Drive defensively, and stay off the roads during peak heat, if you can. Head out in the earlier morning and later evening hours, or stay home and keep cool!
And if you do get in a wreck, contact Accident & Injury Chiropractic today. Our car crash Doctors of Chiropractic will help you with your injuries and have you back behind the wheel to enjoy the cooler fall weather that (we hope) is on its way.