Study finds that dehydration can be as dangerous as drink driving

A study carried out by Professor Ron Maughan from Loughborough University has found that road users suffering from dehydration can be as dangerous as drink-drivers.

Published in the journal Physiology and Behavior, and reported in The Telegraph, it found those drivers who only drank 25ml of water an hour made twice as many errors as those who were hydrated; the same figure as people who had been drink driving.

Remarking on the shocking revelation Maughan, Emeritus Professor of Sport and Exercise Nutrition at the University, believes more people need to think about hydration.

“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.

“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 researchers carried out a number of tests using a driving simulator in a laboratory. Over two days each volunteer would spend one day in the simulator while hydrated – where they were provided with 200ml of water every hour – while the other day they would be dehydrated and given just 25ml.

Simulator tasks included two hours of mundane motorway driving, with bends, and simulated rubble strips as well as having to overtake slow moving vehicles.

When they were dehydrated the drivers would make far more mistakes, including braking late, drifting between lanes and crossing rumble strips inadvertently; in total drivers made 101 mistakes when they were dehydrated compared to just 47 when they were normally hydrated.

68 percent of all vehicle crashes in the UK are due to driver error, so dehydration can be a major cause of accidents. As well as producing symptoms of headache and fatigue it can also result in lack of the ability to concentrate as well as loss of alertness and short term memory.

So the next time you’re making a journey in your car, whether it be over short or long distance, make sure you’re properly hydrated. It’s more important than you think.