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Driving while dehydrated found to be as dangerous as driving drunk


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(NaturalNews) With 68% of all vehicle crashes in the UK being attributed to driver errors, one may be inclined to improve driver education programs or come down harder on intoxicated drivers in order to improve safety on the roads.

Or, maybe they just need to be reminded to drink more water.

New research has suggested that drivers make more than twice as many mistakes when they are mildly dehydrated, and that even having as few as five sips of water per hour while driving is equivalent to being over the drunk driving limit. It turns out that those who consume only 25 ml of water an hour are involved in over twice as many mistakes on the road as those who are properly hydrated, which is the same amount of those who are driving drunk.

This means that whether you have 0.08% blood alcohol content, or 25 ml of water for every hour of driving, you represent the same risk to yourself and others on the road. This highlights an unrecognized danger in America, as over 75% of the population may suffer from dehydration, according to doctors.

In the study, published in the journal Physiology & Behavior, researchers carried out a range of tests over two days on male drivers using a laboratory-based driving simulator that included a two-hour continuous, monotonous drive with some bends, a hard shoulder, "rumble strips" and overtaking slower moving vehicles.

On one day, the men were provided with 200 ml of fluid on the hour, and on dehydration day, 25 ml of water an hour. Driver errors such as lane drifting, late braking and touching or crossing the rumble strip or lane line were calculated and compared for each condition. Results showed that during normal hydration there were 47 driving incidents, but when dehydrated, the number increased to 101, with the error rate increasing during the two-hour period and peaking in the last half hour.

Dehydration can also result in impaired mental functioning, changes in mood and reductions in concentration, alertness and short-term memory, say the study researchers. Considering that the brain is made up of around 85% water, it should come as no real surprise that dehydration can negatively affect its performance, which is critical when reaction times can mean the difference between life and death on the roads.

America's chronically dehydrated population at increased risk

With 75% of Americans estimated to not be drinking enough water, falling short of the 10 daily cups prescribed by the Institute of Medicine (which constitutes chronic dehydration), this is a major area of concern. Even more frightening, coffee cups and soda cans have been known to occupy cup holders in vehicles for decades, both of which contribute to increased dehydration. Combine these factors with purposely avoiding water on long road trips to avoid bathroom breaks in traffic and you have potentially multiplied the risk of accidents.

Even more alarming, the level of dehydration that was induced in the study was mild and could easily be reproduced by people with limited access to water over the course of a busy working day. What would happen if water was even more restricted, and coffee or soda were the beverage choices of the day? This is not an unlikely scenario, and it's safe to say that this pattern of fluid intake occurs on a regular basis.

Could this new research be the beginning to breathalyzers that measure dehydration, rather than blood alcohol levels? Only time will tell, but for now, keep your brain functioning optimally with pure, non-fluoridated water, and keep an empty container with a lid in case you get caught in traffic and can't get to that washroom.

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