Summer Alert: Driving Dehydrated Can be as Dangerous as Driving Drunk

Summer Alert: Driving Dehydrated Can be as Dangerous as Driving DrunkAs the dog days of summer are upon us here in North Carolina, the heat can get oppressive. This is a good time to remember to stay hydrated. We all know that keeping properly hydrated during the hot weather keeps us healthy and prevents conditions like heatstroke and dehydration. What you may not know, however, is that dehydration can also cause us to lose mental focus – which can cause us to make mistakes behind the wheel, not unlike drunk driving.

In fact, driving dehydrated is a lot like drunk driving.

A 2015 UK study analyzing the effects of mild dehydration on the task of driving is making the rounds again, due to the heatwave enveloping the country. The study, which compared simulated driving tests on subjects who were both hydrated and dehydrated, found an increase in operator errors (and potential accidents) in drivers with dehydration. Researchers also found higher levels of impaired concentration and alertness with test participants experiencing hypohydration (another word for dehydration).

About the study

The study, undertaken by researchers at Loughborough University in the UK, had 11 adult males participate in three driving simulators set up to mimic real-world conditions. The first session was to help familiarize participants with the simulator, with the last two simulating a two-hour road trip. In one trip, drivers were properly hydrated; in the other trip, they were thirsty.

The results?

Researchers reported that the properly hydrated drivers had 47 incidents while performing driving tasks on the simulator. However, when they were thirsty and dehydrated, the number of incidents jumped drastically to 101. The authors noted that this is similar 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.”

Professor Ron Maughan, Emeritus Professor of Sport and Exercise Nutrition at Loughborough University and Chair of the European Hydration Institute Science Advisory Board, added a warning:

“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.”

“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 [and US] 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.”

How do I know if I am dehydrated?

People can become dehydrated by expelling more fluids than they take in. This typically occurs by not drinking enough water throughout the day, but can also happen due to hot weather, working out, or drinking too much alcohol or caffeine. Additionally, factors like stress, medication, sunburn, and other issues can lead to dehydration.

Although the obvious answer to “Am I dehydrated?” is “If you feel thirsty, you probably are” there are many other signs of dehydration and, for some people, thirst may not even be a symptom. Additionally, some individuals are more prone to dehydration than others and should monitor their liquid intake appropriately. You may also find it more difficult to keep hydrated while wearing a mask, if you do so for health reasons.

Kaiser Permanente offers helpful tips to keep hydrated and stay hydrated, to enjoy better health and safer driving this summer.

Warning signs of dehydration include:

·       Bad breath

·       Dark yellow or amber-colored urine

·       Decreased amount of urine

·       Dry mouth and/or swollen tongue

·       Fatigue and sluggishness

·       Sugar cravings

Signs of dehydration that require immediate medical attention include:

·       Confusion

·       Dizziness

·       Fainting/unconsciousness

·       Heart palpitations


Regarding wearing a mask and dehydration, Kaiser states the following:

Wearing a mask does not cause dehydration, but you may drink less water when you’re wearing one. When you wear a face covering for long periods of time, it’s important to be mindful of how much water you drink. Bring a water bottle with you when you leave the house and set reminders on your smartphone to take frequent water breaks.”

How much water do I need each day?

According to the Mayo Clinic, the average healthy adult living in a temperate climate needs the following fluid intake:

  • About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids a day for men
  • About 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women

This includes both water and other beverages and food. You might need to adjust this based on your workouts, environment, health, and whether or you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.

Safety tips for your summer road trip

When preparing for a road trip this season, no matter how long or how short, ensure you’re a safe and defensive driver. Skip the alcohol and pack extra water. Hydrate before your journey, keep a water bottle on hand, and take frequent breaks.

You may want to forgo excessive air conditioning usage (even though it may seem at cross-purposes) as AC tends to dry out the air in the car and dehydrate you even more. This doesn’t mean don’t use your air-conditioning – just take a break to breathe in some fresh air every now and then.

Fruit can give you a hydration boost, too. Just remember to eat your snacks during a break and not to engage in unsafe or distracted driving.

The car accident attorneys at Warren & Kallianos, PLLC fight for the rights of injury victims. When you are harmed by the negligence of another, we work to secure compensation for your injuries and losses. Contact us today to find out how we can help. Call us in Charlotte at 704-377-7777, or schedule an appointment by filling out our contact form.



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