Employers are being urged to recognise the dangers of driver dehydration, even though our unprecedentedly hot summer has now given way to cooler autumn weather.
Training specialist Drivetech, part of the AA, has emphasised that driver dehydration is an all-weather issue, with the potential to cause accidents at any time of year.
Businesses have a duty of care to all employees driving for work purposes – even those driving their own vehicles.
Employers are responsible for ensuring vehicles are adequately maintained and safe and that drivers are being responsible behind the wheel, which includes keeping hydrated, the company has reminded employers.
If employers fail to do so, they may be liable for prosecution in the event of an accident under the Corporate Manslaughter Act 2007, it has warned.
Even mild dehydration can lead to reduced concentration and mood changes behind the wheel.
The company has highlighted a Loughborough University study from 2015 that showed drivers who have not consumed enough water make as many mistakes on the road as those who have been drinking alcohol – double those made by motorists who are fully hydrated.
Drivetech has developed a toolkit of tips for employers to pass on to drivers, including:
- Ensure you have water to hand before setting off for a long journey – carry a litre of water per passenger as a minimum
- Plain water is an ideal journey drink, but juice, milk, tea and coffee can also quench thirst
- Divide a long journey into equal comfort break segments and consume the same volume of water each time
- Driving breaks must be taken before fatigue has a chance to set in. The minimum recommendation is a 15-minute break for every two hours of driving
- Eating water-heavy foods can also help you stay hydrated, such as cucumbers, strawberries and bananas.
“Dehydration as an issue is often overlooked, but ultimately, it is a preventable medical condition that can lead to driving accidents,” said Colin Paterson, head of marketing at Drivetech.
“It causes fatigue – you’re far more likely to feel tired when dehydrated. The European Food Safety Authority recommends that women consume 1.6 litres of water daily (eight 200 ml glasses) and two litres for men (ten 200 ml glasses).
“If you are not nearing these intake levels and start to feel thirsty on the road, dehydration is already setting in and impacting on your concentration levels, leaving you more likely to make mistakes.
“Business drivers are also more likely to worry about reaching their destination to avoid downtime and less willing to take all-important comfort breaks to refuel – and may even drink less water to avoid stopping on the road.
“That’s why we believe now is the time for managers to issue a hydration reminder to all employers, as business travel returns to pre-summer levels.
“We urge employers and HR managers to prioritise driving safety during this busy period to ensure all drivers stay safe, hydrated and healthy on UK roads by sharing this best practice advice. It could be potentially life-saving,” Pearson added.