For years, Maine residents, like all Americans, have been warned of the dangers of drunk driving. Most people know that just drinking some coffee after a night of heavy drinking is not good enough, and assume, when drinking at a friend’s house, that waiting there and sleeping off a buzz is safer than getting on the road. However, some recent European studies show that driving with a hangover can be as dangerous as drunk driving, a finding that should affect both how you drink and how you drive the following morning.
In one study, a professor from the University of the West of England asked participants to drink alcohol the night before taking simulated driving tests. The morning after their drinking, they had to drive in a simulation involving both urban and rural settings. The participants were legally sober and ‘drove’ for 20 minutes. However they had a large number of mistakes and deviations in both speed and driving position. They crossed over the central line more frequently. They sped too much. Most disturbingly, they had slow reaction times.
In a larger study conducted in the Netherlands, which was presented at the 2013 Australian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs conference, 47 participants that had spent the night before drinking an average of 10 drinks took a 1-hour simulated highway driving test. They were tested in the morning and found to have no alcohol in their bloodstream at the time they took the tests. However, their ability to drive was dramatically impaired, comparable to somebody with a BAC of .05 (which is the legal limit in some other countries such as Australia.)
Although the alcohol had left their systems, the subjects continued to feel effects of the drinking. They were thirsty, dehydrated, drowsy, fatigued, and suffering from headaches and lack of concentration. They exhibited increased weaving and poor concentration.
A 2008 study conducted at Brunel University in England had similar findings. In that study, students were tested on a driving simulator both when totally sober and also when experiencing a hangover. On average, the hungover drivers drove not just more erratically, but also 10 mph faster than the sober drivers. (For comparison, sober comparisons drove about the speed limit 6.3 % of the five-mile trip, but hungover drivers drove 26% of the trip driving over the speed limit). The hungover drivers left their lane four times more. They committed double the traffic violations (such as running red lights). The researcher made special note of the fact that when people are on cellphones, they tended to slow down to compensate, but when hungover, they drove faster.
Why would drivers’ hangovers affect their driving as significantly as consumption of alcohol? Dr. Steven Siegel, an associate psychiatry professor explained that the brain adapts to alcohol while you are drinking it. This means the brain of a heavy drinker over a long period becomes dependent upon the presence of alcohol to stay in balance. The absence then leads to an imbalance that can lead to the withdrawal that expresses itself as a hangover. The doctor emphasized that the adaptation, not the presence of alcohol, was what caused the problem driving for those that had hangovers.
If you or a loved one is hurt by a driver’s negligence–including a driver who drives erratically due to a hangover or drunk driving–you may need the help of an experienced personal injury attorney to help recover the compensation you deserve. At Briggs & Wholey, our knowledgeable attorneys are available to answer any questions you may have. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced advocate, please contact Briggs & Wholey, LLC at (888) 596-1099 or through our website today.
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