June 05, 2015
A study by university researchers in England has found that driving while dehydrated can have dangerous effects similar to driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Using a laboratory-based driving simulator, researchers at Loughborough University conducted a range of tests over two days on male drivers. Professor Ron Maughan, emeritus professor of sport and exercise nutrition at Loughborough University and chair of the European Hydration Institute Science Advisory Board, led the study.
During the normal hydration test there were 47 driving incidents, but when the men were dehydrated that number more than doubled to 101 – a similar number to what might be expected of someone driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. These included lane drifting, late braking and touching or crossing the rumble strip or lane line.
"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," Maughan said in a statement.
"There is no question that driving while under the influence of 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."
The study evaluated men with a mild level of dehydration, indicating the importance of remaining hydrated throughout the day.
“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.”
The European Hydration Institute, which sponsored the research, is encouraging drivers to make sure they are adequately hydrated before getting behind the wheel.