• September 26, 2012
  • Katlin Owens

Having To Pee While Driving Is As Bad As Drinking

Source: Brown Daily Herald

According to our recent poll. The majority (61%) answered that there are not enough restrooms on the road, leading many of you without a restroom when you need one. But did you know that holding your bladder can cause many of the same brain triggers and impairment as drinking alcohol?

"They made it to the bathroom, but it was a pretty ugly scene," said Peter Snyder, professor of neurology. "There was a bit of some pushing to get into the stalls."

Snyder was not describing a frat house on a Saturday night or the mad dash for the ladies' room during the intermission of a lengthy play. Instead, he was talking about his study, which took one afternoon, cost less than $2 and ultimately won him and his team a 2012 MSNBC Weird Science award. The study also caught the eye of the team of Nobel Laureates who determined the winners of the 2011 Ig Nobel Prizes, designed to "honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think," according to their website.

Since publishing the study, he said he has heard from truck drivers who have experienced first-hand cognitive impairment from needing to pee. "At least three or four people who are either truck drivers themselves or are related to truck drivers have told me that they almost killed themselves because they weren't paying attention when they had to go so badly," he said.

Snyder's research showed that the painful need to urinate causes levels of cognitive deterioration on par with staying awake for 24 consecutive hours or having a blood alcohol content level of 0.05, just shy of the legal limit for driving.

Snyder and his team ran the study on eight individuals, who each drank 250 milliliters of water every 15 minutes until they reached their "breaking point," where they could no longer hold their urine. As subjects' self-reported pain levels increased, so too did their levels of cognitive impairment as measured by simple tasks on the computer that tested attention and working memory.

The study's results have real-world implications Snyder and his team did not anticipate. "We didn't set out to really talk about the risk of driving when you really need to break to go to the bathroom," he said. "Honestly, this didn't occur to us, that it's the same as drinking until you are too drunk to drive."



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