Drinking and driving is a mistake, and there aren’t many people who would argue against that fact. Alcohol has the ability to affect your coordination, reflexes, vision, and thought process, and when you drink and drive, you are endangering your life and the lives of others. But researchers in England say that not drinking water can have the same effect as drinking alcohol when you get behind the wheel, and they’ve found that dehydration can be deadly while driving too.
The study, done by England’s Loughborough University and published in the journal Physiology and Behavior, showed that people who drove while dehydrated a lot of driving errors, and the researchers placed those errors on the same level as driving while drunk.
In the study, volunteers who were given 200 milliliters of water every hour on one day, and 25 milliliters, or the equivalent of 5 sips, of water on another day. The volunteers then had to use a driving simulator for a two-hour drive. On average, the volunteers made 47 driving errors while hydrated, but that number shot to 101 when they drove while dehydrated. When compared, that number is similar to drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of .08.
The researchers found that dehydration can affect your metal clarity, reaction time, concentration, ability to focus, and mood. It can also affect your blood volume, so you may experience headaches and lethargy when driving. Put them together and you have a driver behind the wheel who is driving impaired, and that person hasn’t had a drop of alcohol.
One of the main points you can take from this study is how dangerous it is to drive when impaired, period, but it would have be useful to see a specific comparison of how dehydrated driving vs driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs affects the drivers in the simulated road tests. Given all the research done on drinking and driving, it’s safe to say that it’s much more dangerous to get behind the wheel drunk than thirsty.