Could Hungover Driving Be As Dangerous As Drunk Driving?



We all know the story. You’re out with your friends sharing a few drinks and having a blast. The night wears on. Your plan to stop after two beverages falls by the wayside. Soon three becomes four, becomes five. Because you’re aware of the possible consequences, you caught a cab home, avoiding any chance of a DUI. You’re going to have a whopping hangover tomorrow, but hey, you’re having such a good time it’ll be worth it, right?


The next morning, you drag yourself out of bed, convinced that the sunlight is melting your eyeballs and someone glued your tongue to the roof of your mouth while you were sleeping. Hungover yes, but not drunk, which means that you don’t give a second thought to hitting the road. Cup of coffee, two aspirin, and a shower. Good to go. Except, as it turns out, you’re not really.


Most people know that having a few drinks, or a few too many, and then driving themselves home from the bar might not be their smartest choice. But most of those same people would think nothing of getting up the next morning and driving off to work. Recent studies, however, are showing that this may actually be a pretty bad idea.


In one of the studies, researchers from Utrecht University in the Netherlands and the University of the West of England in the U.K. put study participants through a series of driving tests that mimicked highway driving. As part of the study, all of the participants had consumed about 10 drinks each the night before.


While there wasn’t any alcohol present in the blood of the participants at the time of the test, they still demonstrated increased weaving in traffic and a reduced ability to pay attention to the road while driving. In fact, their results were very similar to those of someone with a blood alcohol level of .05. Not a big deal, you think? Well, that’s not entirely true.


In a second study conducted by the same researchers, participants were asked to perform in a driving test that mimicked driving in stop-and-go traffic. Again the participants drank heavily the night before and again their abilities were compromised the next morning. In this test, while they had no alcohol in their blood, they still drove at inconsistent speeds, made poor choices, and displayed delayed reaction times.


According to the researchers, the reason that people experience a hangover is because they are undergoing short-term withdrawal from alcohol, along with dehydration and sleep deprivation. All of these factors combined can make driving quite dangerous after a night of drinking. Another factor may be that most people assume a few hours of sleep after a night of drinking will be enough to sober them up. However, researchers are saying that this depends entirely on the quantity of alcohol consumed. A “morning after” driver can still be above the legal limit if they consumed a large enough quantity the night before.


Part of the reason for this could be that many people don’t know how long it takes for alcohol to leave the body. Drinkers who would never drive after leaving the bar, could still be too drunk to drive the next morning without even realizing it. The common belief is that a shower, some coffee and a little sleep are enough to overcome a night of heavy drinking, when in fact the only real cure is time.


If you are going to go out drinking at night, you may need to plan for more than just a ride home afterwards. Ensure that you get enough sleep and have properly rehydrated your body before driving anywhere the next morning. Slower reaction times and dangerous driving mistakes with a 0.0 blood alcohol level won’t get you arrested for drunk driving, but you may still be a real danger to yourself and others on the road when you’re hungover. If you are charged with an alcohol or drug related driving offense, our criminal defense team can help you. They are available for emergencies and for office appointments by calling 1 866-766-5245.




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