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Study: Dehydration can be as dangerous as driving drunk

When you're sharing the road with a commercial truck, you hope that the driver isn't under the influence of drugs or alcohol or exhausted from driving for more hours than he or she is allowed. You should also be hoping that the driver isn't dehydrated.

According to a study recently published in Physiology & Behavior, dehydration can be just as dangerous as driving drunk. During the scorching hot summers that we have here in Mississippi, dehydration is a real possibility for drivers who don't take the time to rehydrate regularly, especially if they have to load and unload cargo as part of their jobs. Even making a stop for gas on a hot, muggy day can leave a person craving water or Gatorade.

Many truck drivers limit their intake of water and other fluids because they don't want to stop for any more restroom breaks than necessary. They may turn up the air conditioning to stay cool. However, while the A/C is taking moisture out of the air, it's also removing it from your body.

So how does being dehydrated make a person less safe as a driver? Researchers who conducted the aforementioned study in England found a link between dehydration and driver error. They tested drivers on a simulator, comparing the number of errors they made when properly hydrated versus the number when they were just mildly dehydrated.

Even mild dehydration can cause a person to become lethargic, tired and dizzy. People with certain medical conditions like diabetes or those taking medications prescribed for high blood pressure are more likely to become dehydrated.

One of the professors involved in the study says, "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 .08 percent." These errors included crossing center lines and braking late.

It's important for anyone who gets behind the wheel to understand the importance of hydration. Many people traveling on long road trips this summer may fail to hydrate properly. While driving dehydrated doesn't carry the same criminal consequences as driving under the influence, it can be dangerous.

If you or a loved one is injured in a crash caused by another driver, regardless of the circumstances that caused that driver's negligence, you have the right to determine your legal options for seeking needed compensation.

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