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Hungover Driving

Anyone who has ever had a bit too much to drink is very familiar with the phenomenon known as the “hangover.” A hangover is a period of headaches, sickness, nausea, and general unpleasantness, that frequently follows a person’s consumption of a large amount of alcohol. Many people think that the impairment from a night of heavy drinking can simply be shrugged away the next morning, or “slept off.” For some this may be true, but it is incredibly rare that a person can drink heavily, sleep for a short time, and wake up the next morning completely ready to go. In fact, one study may suggest that driving with a hangover may be just as perilous as driving while intoxicated.dui-1

Driving While Hungover

Utrecht University, an academic institution in Amsterdam recently conducted an experiment regarding a group of subjects’ ability to drive while hungover. The subjects included 24 men and 24 women. They were asked to do one driving test after a night without drinking, and then another driving test after a night of very heavy drinking. Participants, on average, had about ten drinks the night prior to their test. In the morning, before the test was administered, the participants were all breathalyzed to ensure that their blood alcohol content was at zero. Following the breathalyzer, the subjects proceeded to take the driving test.

The driving test was a simulation in two parts. The first part required drivers to stay in the right lane at a consistent speed, while the second was a simulated highway for one hour. The results of the test showed that even though the subject’s blood alcohol content was at zero, they were driving just as poorly as a drunk driver. Reports showed that the drivers were swerving the way a drunk driver would. The classic hangover symptoms of nausea, pain, and overall discomfort played a factor in the driver’s distraction. The study also pointed to the sleep deprivation that also frequently accompanies a night of heavy drinking as another potential source of distraction as well. These symptoms in combination with a lack of sleep can cause significant enough distraction to drive at the level of alcohol impairment.

These effects can be so severe that they lead to liabilities. In one case, one driver, still reeling from the effects of a hangover struck another and caused a great deal of injury. The plaintiff for the case was struck when the defendant crossed over the center line. The plaintiff suffered a life-altering traumatic brain injury, as well as a number of other injuries. The case held both the driver and the night club where the driver consumed alcohol responsible for a total judgement of over $1 million in damages.

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