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The dangers of 'dehydrated driving'

It's easy to become dehydrated in the summer. Increased physical activity coupled by more time spent in the hot sun can contribute to dehydration. Often, people don't even realize they're dehydrated because they don't feel thirsty.

In addition to the impact of dehydration on the body, even mild dehydration can impact a person's driving ability. In fact, researchers at a university in the United Kingdom determined that dehydrated driving can be every bit as hazardous as drunk driving.

The researchers gave their subjects just over 100 ounces of water in the day leading up to their "hydrated" test using a driving simulator. For the "dehydrated" test, they gave them a quarter of that amount. The men made twice as many errors on the second test, including drifting into other lanes and even over rumble strips.

The number of errors was equivalent to those made by someone who had a .08% blood alcohol level. The lead author of the study said the results were similar to what he'd observed when having subject consumer 2.5 ounces of vodka and putting them on the same simulator.

The researchers produced only a mild level of dehydration in the subjects. However, as the study's lead author said, We wanted to simulate real-world conditions, such as when you've had a particularly busy day and were unable to take breaks for drinks."

So why does even mild dehydration impact driving? It's been shown to reduce concentration, impair memory, slow reaction times and worsen a person's mood. These are often the effects of alcohol as well. As the researcher noted, "All of these factors can impact our ability to safely drive a motor vehicle."

So if you're taking a road trip, don't forget to hydrate before you get behind the wheel and regularly while you're driving – preferably with waters or juices. Many people hesitate to do that because it means more restroom breaks. However, It's better to have to pull over occasionally than lose your concentration or making unnecessary mistakes.

Even if you're just driving home from the office or the gym, make sure you're well-hydrated. This can make you better prepared to deal with negligent or reckless behavior by another driver. If you are injured in a crash, be sure to seek the compensation you need and deserve.

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