Dehydrated Drivers Can Make as Many Errors as Drink-Drivers
We all know the dangers of drink-driving, but few of us consider the impact dehydration can have on our awareness behind the wheel. However, a recent study found evidence that a lack of water can cause some drivers to make as many mistakes as they would when over the alcohol limit.
Researchers at the University of Loughborough carried out tests on experienced male drivers, over the course of two days. Each participant used a driving simulator on a day when they were properly hydrated (drinking 200ml of water every hour), and on a day when they were given just 25ml of water an hour. On each day, a monotonous two-hour drive on a dual carriageway was simulated, with slow-moving vehicles which had to be overtaken.
47 driving errors were made during the hydrated test, compared to 101 mistakes in the dehydrated drive – a rate which is very similar to the error rate of drivers who are over the drink-drive limit, or who have not had enough sleep. As driver errors account for 68% of vehicles crashes in the UK, the results indicate how important it is for drivers to keep themselves hydrated.
“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,” says Professor Ron Maughan, Emeritus Professor of Sport and Exercise Nutrition. “There is no question that driving while incapable through drink or drugs increases the risk of accidents, but our findings highlight an unrecognised danger and suggest that drivers should be encouraged to make sure they are properly hydrated. Drivers who are not properly hydrated make the same number of errors as people who are over the drink-drive limit.”
The researchers explain that mild dehydration can cause symptoms such as headache, weakness, dizziness and fatigue, and generally makes people feel tired and lethargic. These effects can lower your alertness and ability to concentrate on the road, increasing the risk of accidents. They also point out that the level of mild dehydration which had a negative impact on drivers in the study can easily be present in individuals with limited access to fluid over the course of a busy working day.
The team concludes: “There is no question that drink driving and driving while tired increases the risk of road accidents. Given the present findings, perhaps some attention should also be directed to encouraging appropriate hydration among drivers.”