Dehydration is a condition where you are prone to unclear thinking, staggering, clumsiness and mental fog. Inadequate hydration is a significant issue which impairs mental clarity, concentration and focus. It also impedes reaction times, so driving while in a state of dehydration is not recommended.
New research by Loughborough University, U.K. and published online in Physiology and Behavior and also on the Science Direct website, has revealed that lack of adequate hydration potentially impedes a driver’s performance as much as if they were at the legal drink driving limit of a BAC of 0.08%.
The Loughborough University researchers ran their test on eleven healthy British males, using a laboratory-based driving test which simulated two hours of particularly monotonous driving. Included in the test were slow-moving vehicles, rumble strips and bends that the drivers needed to negotiate.
Participants were tested twice, over two days. On the initial day of testing, drivers were given one cup of water every hour, whereas their water was restricted to a few sips per hour on the second day.
The results of the study made for some very sobering reading. In terms of driver error, even mild cases of dehydration are equivalent to being over the drink driving limit.
Throughout the first hydration test, there were a total of 47 driver errors. Comparing this to the second day, during, which the dehydration test was run, the number soared to 101 driving incidents. Researchers found similarities in this second test result to incident rates of individuals driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Chair of the European Hydration Institute Science Advisory Board and Emeritus Professor of Sport and Exercise Nutrition at Loughborough University, Professor Ron Maughan, who led the study said, “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”.
It is important to note that this study reflects the effects of mild dehydration. It is therefore imperative that all drivers stay adequately hydrated throughout any journey in order for driving ability to remain uncompromised. Taking short drinks and rest breaks at regular intervals throughout a long drive is best practice to avoid erratic driving due to dehydration.