Driving thirsty can be just as bad as driving under the influence

There's science to prove it
by Drei Laurel | Oct 18, 2017


Do you take your car to the gym or your weekly Sunday basketball game? If yes, you might want to hold off from driving immediately after afterwards, or at the very least down a bottle of water before doing so.

Tests have shown that driving while dehydrated increases the chance of driver error. One 2015 study in particular shows just how alarming dehydration's effects on motorists can be. Research conducted in Loughborough University sponsored by the European Hydration Institute (EHI) found that dehydrated motorists make just as many mistakes behind the wheel as drunk drivers. Yikes.

Using driving simulator, researchers found that during normal hydration subjects committed 47 incidents. In contrast, subjects who were dehydrated committed 101 incidents. That's over double, and close to what can be expected of drunk drivers, the study says. Incidents recorded included drifting and late braking, among others.

Ron Maughan, professor of sport and exercise at the institution, says it's high time people took notice of the dangers of dehydration. "We all deplore drink driving, but we don't usually think about the effects of other things that affect our driving skills, and one of those is not drinking and dehydration.

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"To put our results into perspective, the levels of driver errors we found are of a similar magnitude to those found in people with a blood alcohol content of 0.08%, the current UK legal driving limit. In other words drivers who are not properly hydrated make the same number of errors as people who are over the drink drive limit."

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Nissan recently used a similar study for a promotional video wherein the company equipped a Juke crossover with a dehydration-detecting steering wheel and seats. You can check it out above.

But dehydration doesn't just occur after an intense workout. Diarrhea and vomiting cause it as well, though for obvious reasons, you wouldn't want to take to the wheel if you were experiencing either. Even excessive sweating or prolonged exposure to heat cause it.

One thing motorists need to stop doing is refraining from hydration during trips in an effort to limit bathroom stops. Jane Holdsworth, director of the EHI, explains: "Anecdotal evidence suggests that many drivers avoid drinking on long journeys to minimize bathroom stops, yet we know that even mild hydration can cause symptoms such as headache, tiredness and lethargy."

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So what else do you need to watch out for? Well, immediate signs of dehydration include fatigue, dizziness, sleepiness, and even confusion.  If you notice you're experiencing any of these before stepping into the driver's seat, take a break and hydrate.


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PHOTO: Mio2002
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