Does Having to Pee Make You Drive Like a Drunk?

Maybe you forgot to go before you left the house. Maybe you didn’t think the traffic was going to be this bad. Maybe you’re in the middle of Nevada and the next gas station is still 30 miles away.

Whatever the case may be, you’re having a bathroom emergency, and you’re quite possibly driving like a crazy person.

If you’ve ever had to go while driving — and really, who hasn’t? — you know that you’d do almost anything to get yourself to a restroom. The speed limit holds no meaning for you. Other cars are mere roadblocks between you and the bathroom. And blinkers become optional as you swerve insanely across 3 lanes of traffic to make the next exit. Admit it … you’re a terrible driver when you have to pee!

Well, as it turns out, there’s some actual science behind the reason why.

Science proves having to pee can affect your driving

A 2011 study conducted by Dr. Peter Snyder, VP of Research at Rhode Island Hospital (and Ig Nobel award winner), concluded: “The magnitude of decline in cognitive function associated with an extreme urge to void was as large and equivalent or greater than the cognitive deterioration observed for conditions known to be associated with increased accident risk.”


Thankfully, for those of us who aren’t Ig Nobel award winners, Jalopnik sat down with Dr. Snyder and asked him to translate. Here’s what he said: “In the case of the urge to urinate, we found when people are at their top threshold of pain, when they can’t stand it anymore, the level of impairment on reason and problem solving is equivalent to about a 0.05 blood alcohol level.”

Simply put: when you really have to go, your judgment and problem-solving skills are impaired, making you as bad a driver as someone who’s had a couple drinks. (Thanks, Jalopnik.)

How to avoid driving crazy when you have to pee

As we all know, when you gotta go, you gotta go. So what do you do when you’re stuck driving and suddenly have a bathroom emergency?

Based on Dr. Snyder’s research, I think we can safely conclude there’s only one way to avoid driving erratically when you have to go: don’t drive with a full bladder. Not to sound too much like Mom here, but use the restroom every time you stop — whether you think you have to or not — and avoid drinking too much coffee or soda while you’re on the road.

And pay attention to those road signs. On long stretches of desolate highway, they’ll often warn you about the distance to the next rest stop. In other words, make hay while the sun shines.

Tell us your worst “having to go” stories

Of course, sometimes no amount of planning can save you from having a bathroom emergency on the road. Tell us your worst “having to go” stories … and what you did to survive.

Are Red-Light Cameras Actually Causing Accidents?

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety states that, in 2010, 673 people were killed and an estimated 122,000 were injured in crashes that involved red light-running.

And one of the most popular methods for addressing the issue is to install red-light cameras — automated systems that photograph every car that runs a red light. As of December 2012, 25 states utilize them in various communities.

Problem is, no one’s quite sure if they’re working.

Some studies show that red-light cameras aren’t effective

Like most governmentally installed cameras capturing and recording images and video in public places, traffic cameras have received their fair share of attention.

In 1995, the Australian Road Research Board released a study (opens PDF) that tracked rear-end and “adjacent approach” accidents across an entire decade, spanning 1979 to 1989 (making this the most comprehensive study we’ve found). Results showed that the numbers increased for both types of accidents, leading to a conclusion that the red-light cameras (RLCs) have “no demonstrated value … as an effective countermeasure.”

Granted, that study might seem outdated these days. But, with its extreme length and thoroughness, the study provides an all-inclusive view that later ones have yet to replicate. And it’s not the only study to suggest that red-light cameras might not be the best solution.

Nearly a decade later, the North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University prepared a study (opens PDF) for the U.S. Department of Transportation. Motivated by “criticism of the simplistic methods and small data sets used in many studies of red-light cameras,” the researchers looked at 303 intersections over a 57-month period.

Their findings? “The results do not support the view that red light cameras reduce crashes. Instead, we find that RLCs are associated with higher levels of many types and severity categories of crashes.”

Other studies show they reduce crashes

A 2007 Virginia Research Council study had more mixed results, finding that the “cameras are associated with an increase in rear-end crashes (about 27% or 42% depending on the statistical method used …) and a decrease in red light running crashes (about 8% or 42% depending on the statistical method …).”

Plus, researchers noted significant variation across intersections and geographical areas, with one area reporting increases in all crash types, while 2 others showed decreases in most types. Given the variable findings, these researches recommend evaluating the need for red-light cameras on a case-by-case basis. (Perhaps after trying to see if lengthening yellow-light times — a method that has proven effective in several cities — addresses the issue?)

A 2005 study by the Federal Highway Administration looked at red-light camera performance in 7 U.S. cities. It found that while rear-end collisions increased by 15 percent, right-angle crashes decreased by 25 percent. Since right-angle crashes tend to be more severe, the lowered incidence effectively offsets the increase in rear-end accidents, at least from a monetary perspective. Total crash costs decreased by a total of $18.5 million across the 7 communities studied.

(For more recent numbers, check out the results of a 2012 New Jersey Department of Transportation study, which showed increased crash-related costs of $1.2 million.)

With all the controversy and inconclusive information, it’s no surprise that towns from Roswell, Georgia, to Murrieta, California, are contemplating ridding themselves of the cameras.

So why are red-light cameras still around?

Despite findings about their highly variable effectiveness, you still see RLCs in many cities. Why?

One contributing factor could be that the cameras are effective in lowering the number of red-light violations (and thus some types of accidents).

But another widely cited reason is more of a monetary matter. After all, these red-light cameras can catch more drivers than individual highway patrol officers can. When people pay off their tickets, it increases city income. In fact, in Roswell, Georgia, traffic cameras generated record revenues of $835,253 in 2008.

That’s nearly a million dollars the city stands to lose if they remove their cameras.

Taking the monetary argument a step further, the National Motorists Association has gone so far as to point the finger at corporate interests. According to the Association, Lockheed Martin (a major manufacturer of red light cameras) rakes in a quarter of the ticket cost ($70 of the $271 total) for each infraction in California.

Eric Skrum, Communications Director for the National Motorists Association, also notes that Lockheed Martin “has included clauses in their contracts that prohibit city engineers from applying engineering practices that improve compliance and reduce accidents.” So if the purpose of installing red-light cameras is to make the world a safer place, why prohibit other potentially effective countermeasures?

Red light cameras: yea or nay?

All in all, it seems like red light cameras are at worst dangerous, and at best only variably effective on an intersection-by-intersection basis.

But what do you think? Weigh in below or on our Facebook Wall.

Related stories

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety answers some frequently asked questions about red-light cameras. The Daily Beast expands on the monetary aspect of the argument against. And the Federal Highway Administration digs deep into some alternative methods of making intersections safer.

The Transportation Buffet at SXSW: A Photo Journal

South by Southwest® in Austin, Texas, reminds me of a gigantic buffet — chock-full of insights and heaping with creativity. There’s technology, music, film … and, of course, tacos. Delicious tacos.

But the main course on my SXSW menu this year: transportation. As hip, connected, modern types from all over the world storm the festival, they need hip and modern ways to connect from Point A to Point B (and C, D, E, and F). And it turns out there are more transportation choices at SXSW than salsa choices at the taco buffet. In true South By style, some of them are also pretty creative. But with so many options, what’s an attendee to do?

Well, whenever you stare down the long counter of a bountiful buffet, the key is to remain calm, take deep breaths … and taste everything. Here’s a photo sampling of the transportation options from this year’s menu. Please enjoy.

1. Take a cab

2. Just hoof it

3. SXSW shuttle

4. Two-wheeling

5. The Metro

6. The classic pedicab

7. Borrow a car (check out “Catch a Chevy” or


8. Skateboard

9. Golf cart
golf cart

10. Hop on a food truck
food truck

As insurance for the modern world®, Esurance is a proud Super Sponsor of SXSW 2013. Watch daily recaps from the event at

Related link

The history of the pedicab

Speeding Tickets: Where Does Your State Rank?

A whopping 41 million people receive speeding tickets annually, according to a site called Statistic Brain, which lists the Highway Patrol as their source. What’s more, $6 billion is paid out in speeding tickets each year. That’s a lot of scratch, America.

But these numbers are not divided equally between states. Some states are more ticket-happy than others, and the average cost of a speeding ticket can range from $50 to $2,500. It seems that where you drive really can influence your chances of getting a ticket.

Top 10 ticket-happy states

Here are the top 10 states where you’re most likely to see flashing lights in your rearview mirror:

  1. Ohio
  2. Pennsylvania
  3. New York
  4. California
  5. Texas
  6. Georgia
  7. Virginia (sorry, lovers)
  8. North Carolina
  9. Massachusetts
  10. Connecticut

Average cost of speeding tickets by state

The total cost of the average speeding ticket is $150, but maximum fines for speeding vary by more than $2,400 between states. Interestingly, some of the states where you’re most likely to receive a ticket also have the highest fines.

Most expensive states for speeding tickets

Virginia and Illinois have the most expensive speeding fines, with the maximum set at $2,500. Following that are Georgia and Nevada, with maximum fines at $2,000. Ouch.

Least expensive states for speeding tickets

Tennessee, in contrast, is the cheapest state in which to get a ticket, with a maximum fine of $50. Idaho, Kentucky, and Colorado are the next cheapest with their $100 maximum fines.

Speeding ticket stories

And now … for your internet-surfing pleasure, here are a few noteworthy tidbits of speeding ticket trivia:

  • Who’s afraid of Virginia patrols?
    In March 2010, Virginia proved itself worthy of being the number 7 spot on the ticket-happy list by issuing 7,016 traffic tickets in a single weekend. Of those, 3,536 were for speeding.
  • Getting less ticket-happy in Massachusetts
    As the ninth most likely state to hand out tickets, Massachusetts reported a 35 percent decrease in tickets in recent years. According to, 60,000 fewer speeding tickets were issued in 2011 than in 2008.
  • Speed checked by radar? You betcha.
    During August and September of 2012, Wisconsin State Patrol planes circling the Madison sky resulted in 2,197 traffic stops and 1,662 total citations — 1,324 of these tickets were issued for speeding.
  • The most tickets in one day
    In 2009, Elvis Alonzo Barrett scored himself 50 traffic tickets in a single day. Among the traffic crimes he committed were not wearing a seat belt, hitting parked cars, and yes, speeding.
  • Fastest speeding ticket in the world
    The fastest speeding ticket ever was issued to the driver of a Koenigsegg CCX (a fancy Swedish sports car) for driving 242 mph in a 75 mph zone. Of course, it happened in Texas. Of course.

How to avoid tickets

Whether you live in a highly ticketed state or not, there’s one simple thing you can do to avoid the major bummer that comes with getting a speeding ticket: don’t speed. It’s pretty much as simple as that. But far as other reasons to get pulled over, there’s more to consider.



Police Reveal 4 Common Ways to Get Pulled Over

We’ve all seen it — someone changing lanes without signaling. Or a person driving while texting. And, if we’re honest, maybe we’ve even been that person. Nobody’s perfect. But when you’re trying to avoid being pulled over (which most of us are), it helps to know more about those bad driving habits we’ve all been (admittedly) guilty of at some point. polled 3 police agencies to get an idea of the most common driving no-no’s that cops encounter.

So, in the ongoing interest of helping us all become model motorists, here’s what Johnny Law had to say:


(pulled over because you can’t drive 55 … in a 35 mph zone)

In the Edmunds survey, every cop surveyed listed stopping speeding drivers as a main priority. So why do police officers key in on speeders? Well, issuing speeding tickets has a huge impact on safety. For every 100 extra speeding citations given in a month, there are 14.3 fewer crashes and 5.6 fewer injuries.

Point is, if your need for speed gets the better of you, be prepared to put your money where your lead foot is — a whopping 34 million speeding tickets are handed out each year in the U.S.

Distracted driving

(pulled over because you’re texting, emailing, eating, and driving)

The police officers surveyed say their main reasons for giving distracted-driving tickets include illegal texting and driving or other dangerous cell phone use. And with good reason, too. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a stunning 40 percent of U.S. teens admit to having been in a car while the driver used a cell phone in an endangering way. We don’t know about you, but it seems this phenomenon can’t get enough police intervention.

Equipment violations

(pulled over because those windows are just a bit too dark)

Equipment offenses are easy bait for tickets because they’re so simple to spot. A police officer doesn’t have to make any judgments about the situation. Rather, he or she can simply see that something isn’t up to code and make a move. According to the cops surveyed, the most glaring violation (pun intended) was illegal window tints. Following that were burned-out lights, broken windshields, and expired license plate tags.

Tailgating and improper lane changes

(pulled over because you’re bound to cause an accident)

These 2 violations ranked as equally important on the Edmunds study. Both are reckless maneuvers that cops said they monitor closely. One police officer even qualified exactly what he thinks is considered a dangerous lane change: cutting someone off or moving without looking.

Using the left lane for cruising instead of passing, driving too slowly, and squealing your tires are also high on the list.

Use common sense

When reviewing these offenses, it’s not exactly a surprise that they attract attention. True, you can’t control what other people will do on the road. But you can control yourself. So next time you notice you’re about to fall into one of these habits, think about the repercussions. Safe driving is good for you and everyone else on the road.

Want to learn how these driving no-no’s can impact your car insurance? Check out our moving violations insight center. And if you do get pulled over by the police, remain calm and remember these 8 useful tips (during any time of year).

Related: Find out what happens when you hand over your keys to the valet with these five valet parking confessions.