Driving while Dehydrated – As bad as Drunk Driving?



Listen to any weather update this week and you’ll hear it – another heatwave is coming to the UK, with expected highs of over 30 degrees. This year the UK has already experienced some of the hottest weather in over 30 years, and with it came the usual onslaught of warnings relating to driving, personal safety and health.

But not everyone will have seen the headlines that detail what actually happens when you get behind the wheel of a vehicle, having not drank enough water.

Scientists at Loughborough University have carried out a number of tests on drivers who were suffering from some level of dehydration. Shockingly, what they found was that most of these drivers made the same number of mistakes while dehydrated as your average drunk driver.

Your average adult requires three to four litres of water daily just to function, but in hot weather you need more. The study found that when drivers had a fluid deficit of 4% or more, they were considerably more likely to suffer from headaches, drowsiness, and a harsh jump in both body temperature and breathing rates.

All that considered, it makes sense that drivers would be at risk when they simply haven’t had enough fluids.

Why is this so important?

Any business, whether large or individually owned, should always be looking to reduce on-road risk. The ultimate goal is to identify areas of risk before they present themselves and actively work to avoid them – so something as simple as ensuring drivers are well-hydrated can be a small change that results in much safer driving.

It can sometimes be difficult to ensure that drivers are taking care of themselves properly. A busy schedule and the fact that they’re often on their own for long stretches means that it’s even more important to instill self-care into their working routine.

Driver errors account for up to 68% of accidents in the UK – and 78% of all accidents are caused by drivers being distracted by something, whether it’s a ringing phone or the drowsiness that comes with fatigue or dehydration.

There’s also an undeniable financial aspect. Distracted or fatigued drivers are statistically far more likely to be involved in road traffic accidents, which can lead to points on their licence, sizable fines, and potential prison sentences. Not to mention the cost of claims, legal fees and increased insurance premiums for the business.

How to reduce risk

Always drink enough water. An adult male will require on average 3.7 litres of water per day to remain healthy and active – in hot weather, this should be increased. Plain water is the best option, though there are some energy-style drinks that come close.

Try to avoid driving during the hottest parts of the day. Between the hours of 12pm and 2pm, the sun is highest in the sky and considerably hotter. Wherever possible, try to avoid getting behind the wheel during this time.

Open your windows. Sitting behind glass on a hot day will only worsen the effects of dehydration. Even using air conditioning can only help to a point – so consider opening windows or a sunroof to allow ventilation throughout the vehicle.

Check your vehicle. It’s always important to have a well-maintained vehicle and safety checks never go amiss, but they’re particularly important during hot weather. Always ensure that your tyres have more than the legal minimum tread depth of 1.6mm. In very hot weather road surfaces can soften or may cause more wear to your tyres, so always make sure they can hold up. Keep your coolant levels topped up and ensure your windscreen and mirrors are clean, clear and undamaged to avoid worsening potential glare.

Don’t drive tired. Dehydration is known to mimic the effects of fatigue, as well as exacerbating them. For this reason you should always try to get 6-8 hours of sleep a night, never drive for more than two hours without a 15 minute break, and never tackle a journey of more than nine hours without an overnight rest.

Fuel up. The last thing you want in hot weather is to run out of fuel or break down. When using the air conditioning you may use up to 20% more fuel than you would otherwise, so ensure you’re topped up wherever possible.

Take care of yourself. Never drive when unwell, fatigued or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Look here for a list of over-the-counter medicine that has recently been made illegal to take while driving. Don’t wear clothes that will restrict your movement or control of the vehicle (e.g. flip flops), and try to remain patient with other road users if you can.

Safedrive has years of expertise in reducing on-road risk. We can help you with any number of risk management questions, from implementing driver training to creating handbooks and policies for internal use.

We even offer a full review upon request, where we will look at your current systems and advise improvements and processes to help you make the most out of your business.

You can contact us either by calling 01952 298990 or email us here.


August 7, 2018

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