Driving with a hangover is just as bad

by Vivien Mah    

Driving with a hangover is just as bad

Most people think that sleeping off consumed ounces of beer or wine last night makes them safe when they wake up the next morning. You are now well-rested, you feel better than last night but something isn’t just right. You drive anyway. Getting behind the wheel with a hangover is dangerous as drunk driving or it may be worse. According to a new study, getting behind the wheel with a hangover may be just as risky as drink driving.

In 2008, Joris Verster of the Utrecht University conducted a study on the dangers of driving with a hang-over. Verster with his team of researchers discovered that symptoms of drunk driving are evident in drivers who have had tested a 0% blood alcohol content (BAC) the following day after drinking.

“The hangover develops when blood alcohol concentration (BAC) returns to zero and is characterized by a feeling of general misery that may last up to 20 hours after alcohol consumption,” Verster said in his research. “The magnitude of driving impairment during alcohol hangover is comparable to a BAC between 0.05 and 0.08 %, i.e., over the legal limit for driving in many countries,” he further wrote.


Drunk Driving vs Driving with a Hangover

The study, “Alcohol Hangover – A Puzzling Phenomenon”, invited volunteers to the lab for a series of driving tests. The first test happened after a non-drinking night and the next test happened after a drinking night. The driving simulation test was simple: the volunteers must stay on the right side lane while driving at a speed of 95km/h for an hour.

The researchers implemented the first test (non-drinking) to set a benchmark for the volunteers’ normal driving conditions and reactions. They did the second test (next day after drinking) to track any changes from the initial results. The study showed that the volunteers drank an average of 10 drinks from the previous night. Further, the researchers took the hungover volunteers BAC using a breathalyser and confirmed it to be at 0%.

After the second driving simulation, results showed that even with a 0% BAC, the hungover volunteer’s driving was just as bad as drunk driving. Further look into the study showed that these drivers revealed the same drunk driving patterns, swerving in and out of the right lane.

“Hungover participants could tell that they weren’t driving well; they reported their driving quality as significantly poorer and less safe, considerate, predictable, and responsible,” the researchers write. “Subjects further reported being significantly more tense (sic) while driving, and more effort was needed to perform the driving test.” they further shared.

Signs to Watch Out for

Being in the safe BAC levels doesn’t necessarily translate to being safe behind the wheels. The effects of drunk driving, based on this research, is the same as driving with a hangover. There is still clear and present danger such as being sleepy, delayed reactions, and even impaired motor skills. We have compiled this list of hangover signs you should look out for just before you drive to help you be safer on the road:

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Thirst
  • Headaches and muscle aches
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Increased sensitivity to sound
  • Nausea, vomiting or stomach pain
  • Dizziness or a sense of the room spinning
  • Shakiness
  • Decreased ability to concentrate
  • Mood disturbances, such as depression, anxiety and irritability
  • Rapid heartbeat


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Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for general reference only. Please seek advice from professionals according to your needs.