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Do we need technology to tackle driver dehydration?Back

If you’ve ever driven a car when you’re feeling thirsty, you may be putting yourself and others in danger.

While the dangers of driving after consuming alcohol are widely understood, most people are unaware of safe hydration levels for motorists.

Dehydrated drivers make double the number of mistakes on the road – equivalent to those who drink alcohol and drive.



The statistics

A 2015 study funded by the European Hydration Institute and carried out by Loughborough University, discovered that:

  • Drivers who had consumed only a sip of water (25ml) per hour made more than double the number of mistakes on the road than those who were properly hydrated
  • The number of errors was equivalent to those displayed by people with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 per cent – the current UK drink-drive limit
  • Mistakes included late-braking, drifting within a lane and even crossing lane lines

Approximately two-thirds of drivers are unable to recognise the symptoms of dehydration – tiredness, dizziness, headache, a dry mouth and slower reaction times.

The simple act of drinking more water can help address the issue. A 2013 study by two universities revealed that people who consumed a pint of water before carrying out mental tasks had reaction times that were 14 per cent faster than those who did not have a drink.


Is technology the answer?

Nissan has showcased an innovative solution. With one in six people now sporting wearable technology, Nissan has taken inspiration from the health and well-being industry to create a possible future automotive use for advanced ‘smart’ materials.

In conjunction with Dutch design brand Droog, a sweat-sensing technology coating called SOAK has been integrated into a Nissan Juke crossover. By applying it to the Juke’s steering wheel and front seats, the result is a simple alert system to warn drivers that they need to drink more water.

The SOAK coating works in a very simple way, changing colour when it’s in contact with perspiration – for example, on a person’s hands or clothes after exercise. When dehydrated the SOAK coating turns yellow; when rehydrated it turns blue.

Racing driver Lucas Ordonez, inaugural winner of the Nissan GT Academy and today a NISMO (Nissan Motorsport) athlete, features in a video created to raise awareness of the impact of driving while dehydrated.

Dr. Harj Chaggar, medical consultant for NISMO, said: “While many athletes are well-versed on keeping hydrated, many people outside the sporting sphere remain unaware of the impact of dehydration on physiological performance. Sweat-sensing technology built into a car is an innovative way of highlighting this, aiding prevention by warning the driver directly.”

The innovative SOAK coating was originally the brainchild of Droog researcher and designer Paulien Routs.

Routs said: “I originally created SOAK to be used on sports clothing. My vision is to create innovative solutions that aid the wearer in some way, using new technologies to bring function to fashion and textiles, as well as establishing new ways of interacting with our health and bodies.”

While Nissan currently has no plans to add sweat-sensing technology into the Juke, it shows how innovation can lead to pioneering safety technology. In the meantime, it’s up to motorists to remember to fill up their water bottle before every journey and remain hydrated.

Posted by Beth Rose on 29/09/2017