Are you staying hydrated?
Studies show that dehydrated driving carries similar risks to drunk driving
Last month the UK soared into uncharacteristically tropical temperatures. The July 2019 heat wave brought the UK’s highest-ever temperature of 38.7 degrees Celsius, recorded in Cambridge University Botanic Garden. Fans were purchased, ice lollies enjoyed, and trips to the seaside were had.
But as enjoyable as the sunshine can be, with the heat comes considerable disruption. Train timetables were reduced and speed restrictions implemented as a precaution to ensure that tracks wouldn’t buckle, in addition to delays and cancellations throughout London and the midlands. And it wasn’t just public transport that suffered; roads in Norfolk even began to melt under the scorching heat!
In the midst of the heat the public were reminded to stay hydrated by drinking sufficient water – but why is this important for drivers? Are there really any serious risks to not drinking enough fluids? As it turns out, there are more than you might think; which is why it’s important to stay hydrated whatever the weather.
In 2015, a study by researchers at Loughborough University found a direct link between dehydration and driving incidents – a link strong enough to suggest that it is comparable to drunk driving. In their laboratory based driving simulator study, the dehydrated drivers committed more than double the amount of incidents (such as lane drifting, late braking and touching or crossing the rumble strip or lane line) than those who were adequately hydrated.
Professor Ron Maughan, Emeritus Professor of Sport and Exercise Nutrition at Loughborough University and Chair of the European Hydration Institute Science Advisory Board, who led the study, said: “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. 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.”
Research conducted by vehicle leasing company, Leasing Options, also revealed that more than two in three (67 per cent) UK drivers fail to recognise major symptoms of dehydration.
In the commercial vehicle sector, as road congestion and freight loads increase, it’s arguable that drivers require more concentration than ever before. According to the Department for Transport’s 2018 Road Freight Statistics last year saw a 3% increase of goods moved (152 billion tonne kilometres) and a 1% increase of kilometres travelled (18.7 billion kms). For truck drivers, being able to focus on the road and changes in traffic is a crucial requirement of daily life.
Symptoms of dehydration can be fairly easy to spot. The most obvious of which is general thirst or a dry mouth, but tiredness, headaches, dizziness, and dark yellow urine can also be indicators of dehydration. The impacts of this on the road can show in slower reaction times, loss of focus, and muscle cramps.
The easiest way to prevent dehydration from taking hold is to ensure that you are drinking the recommended six to eight glasses of water a day, which is around two litres. It can be dangerous to drink too much water in a short space of time, so make sure that your water intake is spread throughout the day.
If you don’t enjoy the taste of normal water you may want to jazz it up by adding some fresh fruit. Other fluids that will increase your hydration levels (but are higher in sugars) are squash, milk, fruit juices and teas. Packing water-dense foods in your lunch such as watermelon and grapes is also a good tactic to stay hydrated and by extension alert on the road.
It’s not just government statistics; when we asked our Facebook followers how they would prepare for a long haul truck journey one of the most unanimous answers was ‘stock up on fluids', or ‘take my bottle of cold water’ which was great to see, as being adequately hydrated isn’t only key for driving safety but general health.
Staying hydrated helps the digestive system to function properly, oxygen and nutrients to be transported around the body properly, and enables the body to regulate its temperature - not to mention its importance for brain functionality and flushing toxins from the kidneys. Remember that up to 60% of the adult body is water, so it makes sense that keeping those hydration levels topped up will keep your body working at an optimum level.
More information: https://www.nhsinform.scot/campaigns/hydration