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.

Safe and smart | Getting there


about Heidi

Heidi brings 11 years’ experience to her role as Esurance’s copywriting manager. Writer, editor, and all around wordsy, she was content when content wasn’t cool. Also, she likes old-school country.