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Drunk driving vs Hangover driving

Driving with a hangover is just as bad as drunk driving

While it’s clear that drunk driving can lead to trouble with the law and cause fatal crashes, a study about driving with a hangover found that getting behind the wheel with a hangover may be just as risky as drinking and driving despite not being a driving offence.

How long does alcohol stay in your system?

After your last alcoholic drink, it could take up to 12 hours for your blood alcohol content (BAC) level to reach 0. Once there, hangover symptoms will start to kick in.

LEARN MORE: How long does alcohol stay in your body?

In 2008, Joris Verster of Utrecht University conducted a study on the dangers of driving with a hangover. The research discovered that symptoms of drunk driving are evident in drivers who recorded a BAC level of 0 the morning after drinking.

“The hangover develops when BAC levels return to zero and is characterised 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 an alcohol hangover is comparable to a BAC between 0.05 and 0.08 %.


Is driving with a hangover dangerous?

Yes, an alcohol hangover study published by the Alcohol & Alcoholism Journal invited volunteers to the lab for a series of driving tests and the results found a dangerous similarity to driving with a hangover and driving when intoxicated.

The driving simulation test was simple: the volunteers must stay on the right lane of the road while driving at a speed of 95km/h for an hour.

The first test happened after a non-drinking night and the second test happened after a night of drinking when the volunteers were hungover.

To confirm this, the researchers tested the hungover volunteers using a breathalyser and confirmed it to be at 0% BAC.

The researchers implemented the first test to set a benchmark for the volunteers’ normal driving conditions and reactions. They did the second test the 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 looks into the study showed that these drivers revealed the same drunk driving patterns, swerving in and out of the right lane.

After the second driving test, results showed that even with a 0% BAC, the hungover volunteers’ driving was just as bad as when they would drive drunk.

Hangover symptoms to watch out for

Blowing within the safe BAC limit doesn’t necessarily translate to being safe behind the wheel. The effects of alcohol on driving, based on Verster’s research, are the same as driving with a hangover.

The danger is still clear and present as alcohol impairs one's motor skills and reaction time, causes migraines and headaches, induces drowsiness and more. Here are some symptoms of a hangover you should look out for before you decide to drive.

  • 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

How to cure a hangover

The severity of a hangover can depend on a number of factors including the amount of alcohol consumed, the type of alcohol consumed, food intake, smoking and more. Some of the best ways to cure a hangover include:

  • Drinking enough water
  • Getting a good night’s sleep
  • Eating bland foods like crackers and toast
  • Taking a pain reliever

Contrary to popular belief, the hair of the dog will not relieve your hangover. The last thing you need to beat a hangover is more alcohol.

How to avoid a hangover?

The best way to avoid a hangover is by taking sips of water between drinks, fuel up on food before drinking, and not drinking too much. However, the best way to avoid a hangover is by not drinking at all. Below is an explanation of how each of the steps mentioned should be pursued.

Take sips of water between drinks

As a diuretic, alcohol promotes water loss through urine. Staying hydrated while drinking will help lessen the symptoms of a hangover as many of the symptoms including headaches and fatigue are a result of dehydration.

Don’t drink on an empty stomach

Drinking alcohol on an empty stomach will make it easier for it to pass through your intestines and be absorbed into your bloodstream very quickly.

Stay disciplined while drinking

It’s easy to get carried away when drinking but putting a cap on how many drinks you’re allowed to have, keeping track of them and stopping once you’re reached the cap will help reduce the severity of hangovers the morning after.

Avoid darker drinks

Drinks like brandy and rum are high in congeners which could aggravate your hangover symptoms the next morning. Stick to clearer drinks.

    Can you drive while having a hangover?

    With all of this information in mind, it can be concluded that driving while suffering from hangover symptoms similar to the ones listed above can be just as bad as driving under the influence of alcohol.

    In some cases, the hangover symptoms can prove to impair a driver worse than when a person is intoxicated with alcohol.

    The best course of action to take would be to wait until your hangover passes before getting behind the wheel or arranging for alternative transport.

    Andatech offers a wide selection of personal breathalysers suited for individuals for all walks of life to help monitor alcohol consumption and make informed decisions pertaining to driving and other activities.