Not drinking enough water has the same effect as drunk driving.
These are the findings of a study led by the Emeritus Professor of Sport and Exercise Nutrition at the prestigious Loughborough University in London, according to a Telegraph Online post of April 18th. A driver drinking as few as five sips of water an hour could be experiencing the equivalent of being over the legal alcohol limit in England and in most states in the U.S. Drivers make more than twice as many mistakes when they are just mildly dehydrated (up to 25ml of water an hour) as compared to those who are properly hydrated. The Professor stated, “To put our results into perspective, the levels of driver errors we found are of a similar magnitude to those found in people with 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.”
Additionally, dehydration can cause impaired mental functioning, mood swings, lack of concentration and alertness and also result in short-term memory loss say the researchers who conducted the first study of dehydration, driving errors and accident risk.
During the study, published in the journal Physiology and Behavior, the researchers performed a range of tests over two days on male drivers using a laboratory-based driving simulator. Each study volunteer visited the laboratory on separate occasions and used the simulator on one day while normally hydrated and on another when they were deliberately under-hydrated. The simulated driving test took the form of a two hour continuous, “monotonous” drive on a two-lane highway with curves, auditory “rumble strips,” and slow moving vehicles that were to be overtaken by the volunteer driver. On one day, the men were given 200ml of water an hour and on the “dry” day only 25ml an hour. Driver errors such as lane drifting, late braking, and touching or crossing the “rumble strips” or lane lines were calculated for each condition and compared.
During the normal hydration tests there were 47 driving “incidents,” as opposed to 101 when the men were mildly dehydrated. Moreover, the error rate increased during the two hour period, peaking in the last 30 minutes.
“The level of dehydration induced in the present study was mild and could easily be reproduced by individuals with limited access to fluid over the course of a busy working day,” stated the researchers. They also noted that driving in a hot car could lead to significant water loss over the course of a long journey, and that the effects may be exacerbated by drivers who deliberately restrict drinking to avoid toilet stops.
Loughborough University recently won its 7th Queen’s Anniversary Prize, awarded for relevant research.
It is easy to see the new laws coming after the results of this study are fully disseminated. We’ve already seen an explosion of recommendations-cum-legislation regarding cell-phone use, specifically texting while driving.
Driving Under-Hydrated, or D.U.H., laws will start cropping up around the U.S. eventually, too. At least MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) won’t have to change their acronym much. They could simply become MADDD (Mothers Against Drunk and Dehydrated Drivers) or perhaps MADADD, but that sounds like it’s giving the credit to dads and not moms, and as such probably won’t fly.
Will there be roadblocks and officers checking for dehydrated driving? If you are lucky enough to pass will you get an “I’m properly hydrated!” sticker? Will insurance companies offer special “good hydration” discounts? Surely repeat offenders will have a feature in their cars that tests them for hydration and prevents the vehicle from starting unless they chug down a bottle of Aqua-Fina.
“Officer, I can honestly tell you that I’ve had literally nothing to drink tonight!”
“Come with me, sir. You have the right to remain silent…”
But not dehydrated.