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Thirsty Drivers May Be At More Risk For Accidents

Want to become a safer driver? Simply drinking a glass of water before you get into your vehicle may help.

In a new study, British researchers looked at the problems that arise when drivers get behind the wheel while they're mildly dehydrated. They asked 11 young men to drink either a normal amount of fluid or just one-quarter of a standard amount, then get behind the wheel of a driving simulator the next morning.

During their two-hour virtual drive, the guys who were a little dehydrated made more driving errors, such as drifting out of their lane.

In fact, according to the researchers, they were driving as poorly as they would have if they had a blood-alcohol level of roughly .08 percent. This is the alcohol level that all 50 states use to define illegal driving, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

A baffled brain may go hand-in-hand with a thirsty throat

Severe dehydration - say, when you're crawling across the Sahara or stranded on a desert island - can cause you to become delirious and extremely confused. But even mild dehydration can keep your mind from working at its best.

In a 2012 study, young women spent sessions on a treadmill, then tested their thinking ability. They reported headaches, poorer concentration, worse mood and a sense that tasks were harder when they were dehydrated compared to when they had more water to drink.

A similar study conducted in the previous year found that men who were a little dehydrated had more fatigue and anxiety, less ability to remain alert and more trouble with their memory.

Whether you're on a road trip to your vacation spot, or just navigating through traffic across town, feeling fuzzy and fatigued isn't going to help you safely reach your destination.

The safe driver's guide to staying hydrated

Experts recommend that women get about 91 ounces of fluid - which is roughly 3 quarts - per day. Men should get about 125 ounces daily, or about a gallon. Fluid-rich foods, like watermelon and caffeinated beverages count toward your daily amount.

Your body may send you a variety of signals to let you know that you aren't getting enough fluid. These can include:

  • Headaches

  • Fatigue

  • Irritability

  • Little need to urinate, and when you do, the urine is dark in color

  • If your body is giving you a "low fluid" alert, quenching your thirst before you grab your car keys may help you stay accident-free on your drive, which in turn might help you protect your auto insurance rates as well.

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