Safe Traveling When Nature Calls

The dangerous distraction of needing to use a bathroom while driving Neblett, Beard and ArsenaultWhen you gotta go, you gotta go—and when you really have to go but can’t, your brain (and bladder) make it difficult to think about anything other than finding sweet relief. There’s never a good time to feel this way but one of the absolute worst times to have a full bladder is when you’re stuck in the car.

Each day 1,000 people are injured in the U.S. due to distracted driving, with many of those accidents related to the call of nature. While you’re trying to figure out exactly how long it’ll take to get to a restroom, you aren’t paying attention to the road or focusing on driving safely. Needless to say, that desperate urge is a distraction and it can increase your risk of being involved in an accident.

You might not think that having to relieve yourself qualifies as a serious driver distraction, but research says otherwise. One study found that the extreme need to urinate impairs judgment and focus as much as mild alcohol intoxication—and in some cases, it’s as dangerous as texting while driving. Specifically, study results showed that a severe urge to pee impaired cognitive functions equivalent to a blood alcohol concentration of .05, or the acute fatigue people experience after being awake for 24 consecutive hours.

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to reduce your risk of being caught with a full bladder on the road, including:

  • Relieve yourself before traveling. The simplest solution, it takes just seconds to visit the restroom before you get in the car, but it can save you so much misery and help you avoid causing an accident. Make it a habit.
  • Not drinking and driving. When you’re driving, leave your beverages behind. Taking water, soda, coffee, or other drinks in the car not only increases your chances of having to go, but it also leads to distracting spills.
  • Scheduling regular bathroom breaks. Going on a trip? Don’t leave your ability to locate a bathroom to chance. Plan your route, and schedule restroom and stretching breaks every 100 miles or so.