When you and the gang got together last night, it turned into a real rager. You stayed until closing time and then did the responsible thing by sleeping on the couch of your friend who lived near the bar. But, as the sun hits you full in the face the following morning, you awoke with a staggering hangover and attempted to make the drive home.
Unfortunately, you didn’t get far. A policeman pulled you over because he alleged that you were driving erratically. The traffic stop ended with your arrest. Where did you go wrong?
Driving hungover presents the same dangers as driving drunk
One of two scenarios, or a combination of the two, may have led to your DUI arrest. The first is fairly simple — you were still legally drunk. If you really tied on a good one last night and stayed out until the last call, those few hours unconscious on your friend’s couch were insufficient to rid your body of all the alcohol that you consumed last night. Your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) could still be over the legal limit of .08% to drive.
The second scenario is that the symptoms of your hangover render you too incapacitated to drive safely. Dutch researchers and psychopharmacologists at Utrecht University in the Netherlands discovered that even after a night of partying when their blood levels had returned to .00% when they got behind the wheel of a car, hungover drivers displayed the same kinds of impaired driving errors as drunken drivers did.
How long does a hangover last?
Researchers concluded that in some cases, the accompanying misery of a bad hangover can linger for nearly a full day or 20 hours after the last drink was consumed. Drivers’ impairment levels were comparable to those drivers whose BACs were between .05% and .08%.
Hangovers reduce driving performance
The hungover motorists in the study experienced the same difficulties with staying in their own lanes as drunken drivers did. They also reported having to focus hard on trying to drive safely and showed a decline in their cognitive performances, including the following:
- Divided attention
- Selective attention
- Reaction times
If these facts surprise you, that’s understandable. If you are caught unaware and facing a charge of DUI, begin building your defense at the traffic stop.