Female motorists could be putting themselves and their passengers at risk simply by missing meals, as research commissioned by Direct Line has found almost half of female drivers questioned (45 per cent) sometimes or always skip breakfast before a long car journey.

Nutritionists advise that skipping meals can lead to a lapse in concentration, which could be potentially dangerous for road users if women are regularly skipping meals before a long car journey.

Nearly a fifth (17 per cent) of female drivers crucially don’t drink any fluids during long car journeys, which can also cause a drop in concentration.

Eating while driving is a distraction in itself, but the types of foods eaten while behind the wheel could also have a negative impact on the attention spans of women.

Nearly half of female drivers admit to having a sweet tooth and snacking on sweets (48 per cent) and a further quarter also snacks on chocolates (23 per cent) during a long drive.

And of those who do remember to keep hydrated during a long drive, nearly a third (28 per cent) opt for sugary fizzy drinks.

Azmina Govindji, Consultant Nutritionist and award-winning Dietitian, said: When you’re driving, sweet snack foods such as sugar-rich fizzy drinks and sweets are often the easiest foods to get your hands on.

"But skipping breakfast and eating sugar-rich foods are unlikely to give you the benefit of slow and steady blood sugar levels or maintenance of energy to get you through the long drive ahead.

"You might also be tempted to cut down on drinks in the car so that you have fewer stop-overs, but think again. If you’re dehydrated, your mind isn’t getting a chance to work at its peak. Even mild dehydration can cause irritability and headaches.

"The yo-yo effect of low and high blood glucose and lack of fluids can lead to tiredness, fatigue and reduced concentration, all of which can affect a motorist’s alertness during long car journeys.

Nearly a third (30 per cent) of women have experienced feeling tired again after stopping for a lunch break at a service station during a long drive, with 4 per cent experiencing this frequently, which could potentially be a result of poor eating and drinking habits.

Interestingly, caffeine drinkers (19 per cent) were less likely to frequently feel tired again soon after a pit stop rather than those who opted for a hydrating bottle of water (44 per cent).

Previous studies have found that there is an increase in the number of tiredness-related accidents during the ‘post-lunch dip’ between 1pm and 4pm. The average morbidity rate for tiredness-related accidents is higher than usual, potentially due to the lack of reaction by the driver prior to the collision.

Tired drivers can experience the following dangers:
·Increased drifting within lane
·Crossing the road centre line or side line
·Poor speed control
·Late corrections to lane positioning
·Slower reaction time to stop lights and poor avoidance of hazards

Azmina added: Worryingly over a third of women (35 per cent) don’t realise that what they eat has any impact on their alertness on the road. 

"We all need to think about what we eat both before and during our journey to maintain alertness and keep safe while driving.

Matt Owen, spokesperson at Direct Line, said: Our research has shown that nearly half of women will drive long distances at least once a month, so it’s vital that they are aware food and drink can affect their levels of alertness. 

"We want to highlight the fact that it is important to eat a proper meal before setting off on a long journey, and opt for the right types of food and drink to help ward off tiredness.

"The decision about whether to reach for sugary fast food or a bowl of hearty soup at lunch can actually be more important than simply worrying about your waistline  eating too much sugary, fast-food on a pit stop and not drinking enough water during a long journey could actually make the driver more likely to have a lapse in concentration.

To help hungry drivers have a safe journey, Azmina and Direct Line have teamed up to give motorists some tips:

·If there is only fast food available, think about how you can make your choice healthier. If going for a pizza, choose one with lots of vegetables and less cheese. If going for a burger or fried chicken, forget the fries and choose a salad or corn on the cob instead.

·Comfort foods are often available and can be nutritious; a bowl of warming soup and a granary roll helps to take the edge of your appetite and fill you up.

·Slowly digested carbs like pasta are filling and nutritious. Go for tomato-based sauces rather than creamy or cheesy sauces which are heavier and fattier. And watch your portion size!

·When you look at the meal you have chosen, consider the natural colours. If you don’t see variety, add some steamed vegetables or a salad accompaniment.

·If you fancy taking a packed lunch, try whole grain breads and bagels filled with lower fat fillings like lean roast beef with mustard, lower fat soft cheese with olives, hummus and roasted veg, tuna and sweet corn, roast chicken and salad.

·Drink water rather than sugary drinks on the drive and reach for a banana rather than a packet of crisps to keep energized on your drive.

For the chance to win a copy of Azmina Govindji's new book The 10 Day GI Diet just entre our comp