De­hy­dra­tion as bad as driv­ing drunk

Lesotho Times - - Motoring -

LOUGH­BOR­OUGH — Fail­ing to drink enough wa­ter be­fore get­ting be­hind the wheel is the equiv­a­lent to driv­ing while drunk.

A re­cent study showed that driv­ers who drank no more than 25ml - one met­ric tot - of wa­ter per hour made the same num­ber of mis­takes on the road as those who were over the blood-al­co­hol limit.

In each case, the num­ber of mis­takes made was twice the num­ber made by well-hy­drated mo­torists.

Re­searchers at Lough­bor­ough Uni­ver­sity said the change was ev­i­dent in those who were only deemed “mildly de­hy­drated”.

Ron Maughan, pro­fes­sor of sport and ex­er­cise nu­tri­tion, said the study showed that de­hy­dra­tion was an “un­recog­nised dan­ger” for driv­ers.

“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,” he said. “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.”

The re­search team, whose re­sults were pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Phys­i­ol­ogy and Be­hav­iour, car­ried out tests on male driv­ers us­ing a driv­ing sim­u­la­tor.

Re­duced brain ac­tiv­ity Each vol­un­teer used the sim­u­la­tor on a day when they were hy­drated - which in­volved drink­ing 200ml (less than a cup­ful) ev­ery hour. The tests were then re­peated on a “dry day”, when the par­tic­i­pants were given just 25ml of wa­ter an hour.

The test in­cluded a sim­u­lated two-hour mo­not­o­nous drive on a dual car­riage­way, with slow-mov­ing ve­hi­cles which had to be over­taken. Dur­ing the nor­mal hy­dra­tion test, there were 47 driv­ing er­rors. That num­ber rose to 101 when the men were de­hy­drated - the same mis­take rate as that seen when driv­ers were ei­ther sleep de­prived or at the blood-al­co­hol limit.

The re­searchers, who said driver er­ror ac­counted for 68 per­cent of all ve­hi­cle crashes in the UK, con­cluded that de­hy­dra­tion led to re­duced brain ac­tiv­ity, as well as a drop in alert­ness and short-term mem­ory.

Each of the 12 par­tic­i­pants in the study was an ex­pe­ri­enced driver who had held a driv­ing li­cence for more than two years, driv­ing at least two hours per week.

The re­searchers wrote: “Mild hy­po­hy­dra­tion [de­hy­dra­tion] can cause symptoms such as headache, weak­ness, dizzi­ness and fa­tigue, and gen­er­ally makes peo­ple feel tired and lethar­gic, with lower self-re­ported rat­ings of alert­ness and abil­ity to con­cen­trate.

“Body wa­ter losses have been shown to im­pair per­for­mance in a va­ri­ety of tests of both phys­i­cal and men­tal per­for­mance.”

They added: “The level of de­hy­dra­tion in­duced in the present study was mild and could eas­ily hap­pen to driv­ers with limited ac­cess to fluid over the course of a busy work­ing day.”

The team called for a public aware­ness cam­paign to en­cour­age driv­ers to keep them­selves hy­drated.

They wrote: “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.’ — Daily Mail

Driv­ers who had con­sumed al­co­hol over the legal limit as well as driv­ers who were de­hy­drated made twice as many driv­ing mis­takes as those who were hy­drated.

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