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Driving with a hangover – what the dangers are and why it can be worse than drunk driving


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Driving hungover can be as dangerous as drink driving

While drink driving is a major taboo in society, driving the morning after a boozy night doesn’t seem to carry quote the same stigma. 

Driving while drunk is illegal in the UK but drivers are warning that getting behind the wheel hungover could be just as dangerous and land you in just as much trouble. 

In Europe, research shows alcohol is a factor in 1 in 6 road accident fatalities. And in the U.K. 1 in 10 drink driving arrests take place between 06:00 and 08:00 

“There is a lot of social pressure to prevent those who may be tempted to drink drive after a night out. But many times those who drive the morning after are travelling alone,” said Ford Driving Skills for Life Manager Jim Graham. 

Even when drivers are no longer over the legal alcohol limit they still present a risk that can be as high as for those who are drink driving, with drivers likely to be sleep deprived and their reaction times are affected. 

“We did a lot of research – including analysing our own abilities after an evening of social drinking,” said Gundolf Meyer-Hentschel, CEO of the Meyer-Hentschel Institute. 

Drivers can still have enough alcohol in their bloodstream which can take them over the legal limit even if they don’t feel drunk anymore. 

Alternatively the negative effects of a hangover can influence and impair the way someone drives. 

Here is a list of common symptoms of a hangover:

-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

Drinking alcoholGETTY

The symptoms of a hangover can impair your driving significantly

“People often do not realise the degree to which a hangover impacts your core ability to do anything,” said Dr Richard Stephens, a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Keele University, in the U.K., and an alcohol researcher with expertise in hangover.


People often do not realise the degree to which a hangover impacts your core ability to do anything

Richard Stephens, a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Keele University


A team of researchers, led by Utrecht University psychopharmacologist Joris Verster, found that even when drivers’ blood alcohol levels returned to zero the morning after a night of partying, they showed the same degree of driving impairment as drivers who were intoxicated.

“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,” the researchers write.

“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.”

These are all the penalties you can receive for drink driving as outlined on the DVLA website: 

Being in charge of a vehicle while above the legal limit or unfit through drink

You may get:

-3 months’ imprisonment
-up to £2,500 fine
-a possible driving ban

Driving or attempting to drive while above the legal limit or unfit through drink

You may get:

-6 months’ imprisonment
-an unlimited fine
-a driving ban for at least 1 year (3 years if convicted twice in 10 years)

Refusing to provide a specimen of breath, blood or urine for analysis

You may get:

-6 months’ imprisonment
-an unlimited fine
-a ban from driving for at least 1 year

Causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink

You may get:

-14 years’ imprisonment
-an unlimited fine
-a ban from driving for at least 2 years
-an extended driving test before your licence is returned
-You won’t automatically get your licence back if you’re a high risk offender.

Other problems you could face

A conviction for drink-driving also means:

-your car insurance costs will increase significantly
-if you drive for work, your employer will see your conviction on your licence
-you may have trouble travelling to countries like the USA
-Penalty points, fines and driving bans



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