Mayo County Council is encouraging drivers to ‘hit the bottle’ – that’s water, not alcohol – to raise awareness of the impact dehydration can have on road safety.
With temperatures creeping up and summer weather finally happening, it is important to consider the risks associated with driving in hot weather, according to Noel Gibbons, Road Safety Officer at Mayo County Council. “While the dangers of driving after consuming alcohol are widely understood, there’s relatively little research on safe hydration levels for drivers. Motorists across Ireland are being urged to recognise the dangers of driving while dehydrated, which can have similar effects to drink driving. The research carried out a few years ago seems to suggest that even mild dehydration doubles the number of mistakes made by drivers. In this respect, dehydrated drivers are as bad as the intoxicated ones. The problem returns especially in summer when the temperatures are high.”
The study has found that drivers who are dehydrated can be just as careless as those who are drunk or on drugs. A study led by Loughborough University in the UK has revealed that drivers make far more mistakes, such as late braking and lane drifting, when they are suffering from dehydration. Health authorities recommend that on average, a person should drink around 2 litres of water per day. However, when driving in the summer in hot conditions one needs to drink considerably more than this to stay well hydrated. This is particularly important as dehydration can have an adverse effect on the drivers’ concentration and alertness.
Drivers who had consumed only a sip of water (25ml) per hour made more than double the number of mistakes on the road than those who were properly hydrated.
The number of errors was equivalent to those displayed by people with a blood alcohol content of 0.08%.
Mistakes included late-braking, drifting within a lane and even crossing lane lines.
Furthermore, approximately two-thirds of drivers are unable to recognise the symptoms of dehydration – tiredness, dizziness, headache, a dry mouth and slower reaction times.
Commenting on the research, Noel added: “95% of all collisions in Ireland are down to driver error, with dehydration and fatigue comparable to alcohol consumption. Before you start a journey you should make sure your vehicle is prepared, but just as importantly you should ensure that you are ready and fit to drive. Driving on our ever more congested network is a task that requires full concentration. Making sure you are fully hydrated is a vital part of that process; the safety of vulnerable road users around you depends upon it.”
Types of drivers who may be at the most risk of dehydration:
- Holidaymakers on long journeys
- Motorbike riders in full protective clothing
- Taxi drivers who don’t want to give up their place in a rank
- HGV drivers who only stop for scheduled breaks