In 2021 Ramadan started on the evening of Monday 12 April and will finish on Monday 12 May. The ninth month in the calendar, Ramadan is one of the most important Islamic celebrations which requires participants to observe strict rules, including the observation of a daytime fast.
The UK has more than 3.3 million Muslims living in the country. Throughout the holy month they will refrain from eating or drinking during daylight, which can last for up to 19 hours; they may also pray during the night which, combined with the limited time they are allowed to eat, gives them very little opportunity for sleep.
It is therefore very important that they and where applicable their employers, consider the possible impacts of this when they are driving any kind of vehicle or mechanical equipment. Refraining from eating or drinking during the day can lead to dehydration and low blood sugar levels and combined with potential reduced levels of sleep, could mean that they may suffer from reduced concentration, tiredness, headaches and feeling light headed.
Road safety studies show that low levels of concentration can affect reaction times and awareness behind the wheel including reading road signs, speeding and braking. Tiredness can also be a factor in increased impatience with other drivers and road rage.
Ramadan observers should therefore personally consider whether they are competent to control a vehicle and if not, pass the responsibility to someone who is. Employers, as part of their duty of care, would be advised to carry out a risk assessment for anyone observing Ramadan to ensure their own safety and that of work colleagues and members of the public.
Actions that drivers could take include:
- Recognising that long journeys may be more challenging
- Taking regular breaks
- Undergoing refresher training on defensive driving and keeping a safe distance away from other vehicles in advance of Ramadan
- Avoiding travel to and from work at peak commuting times
- Taking a few days at the end of Ramadan to return to full fitness before recommencing regular driving duties