By now, the effects of alcohol on cognitive functions are well known. It's also well known that trying to drive a car while under the influence of alcohol is incredibly dangerous, stupid, and in pretty much every part of the world, illegal. It's not illegal to drive when you're thirsty, but this curious study suggests that just maybe, it should be.
Wild as that conclusion may seem, there is some science to support it. Leasing Options compiled all kinds of information on dehydration, from how much water the average person consumes to how quickly one becomes dehydrated. In short, the report states a person should drink approximately half a gallon of water each day, but in the UK, the average person only consumes a bit over a third of a gallon. Numbers fluctuate for folks in the States, but a general consensus is that Americans step over the half-gallon benchmark to stay hydrated.
That's good, because Science Direct claims even a slightly dehydrated person loses enough mental focus to make all kinds of driving errors behind the wheel. To reach this conclusion, a study of 11 adult males was conducted using an immobile driving simulator to mimic real-world conditions. Each person participated in three driving sessions, with the first being a familiarization session to get used to the sim setup. The remaining sessions monitored drivers on a two-hour "trip," one hydrated and one thirsty. Sensors tracked brain activity while cameras monitored the drivers. Incidents deemed related to fatigue were excluded from the study.
The results showed dehydrated drivers tended to make more minor mistakes such as lane drifting or late braking, and the instances were similar in frequency to those of a person under the influence of alcohol. However, it's worth noting the study's small sample size could be a limiting factor in the conclusion. Also, the study found a rise of minor mistakes even in well-hydrated drivers as the simulation progressed, though the frequency was less compared to being dehydrated. Interestingly, one participant had to be excluded from the study completely because he continuously fell asleep during the simulation.
Ultimately, it's well known that dehydration can certainly have an effect on a person's critical thinking skills, mood, and health. It is fair to draw a correlation between dehydrated driving and drunk driving? We'll leave that question to you, Motor1.com reader.