Traffic > Safety

Apparently, driving with a hangover is also bad

Before you drink like there’s no tomorrow, read this

It has been found that driving with a hangover is comparable to driving with a BAC of 0.05 to 0.08. ILLUSTRATION BY MARCO RIVERA

We all know drunk driving is abominable. And illegal, too. But if we’re honest, many Filipinos still drink and drive today—even when it’s now much easier to have a night out with the boys without having to bring a car (thanks mainly to ride-hailing apps). To be fair, more and more Pinoy motorists are also becoming responsible and safety-minded, consciously avoiding the steering wheel when intoxicated or tipsy.

That’s all well and good, but there’s one aspect of drinking most of us still don’t understand, together with its impact on driving. We’re talking about hangovers, or the after-affects of excessive libation. Bet you think it’s already okay to operate a motor vehicle after a few hours of sleep, when you’ve “sobered up.” Apparently, that belief is wrong, and it could have serious consequences.

You see, when you have a hangover, you’re definitely not well. You feel tired, you feel cumbersome, you’re a bit dizzy, your eyes are a little glassy. Hardly ideal conditions for getting into the driver’s seat. But most of us think nothing of it, convinced we’re fit enough to hit the road because we’ve already slept the alcohol off.

There are mornings when your hangover is so bad you can still taste the drink you had the night before. ILLUSTRATION BY MARCO RIVERA

Well, nope. Anyone who has experienced a bad hangover would be the first to tell you that driving a car is the last thing on a person’s mind after an evening of binge-drinking. The first would be lying motionless or dunking oneself in a pool of cold water.

In fact, based on a study that tracked social-media chatter from partygoers the morning after heavy drinking, hangovers peak at 11am. So if you think some shut-eye and 10 cups of coffee will bring back your driving reflexes in time for your early client meeting, there is solid data to show you may be unnecessarily putting yourself in harm’s way.

A footnote: January 1st is easily the leading day on the calendar when people are most hungover (for obvious reasons). Precisely why we’re publishing this story today. Consider yourself warned.

If you think some shut-eye and 10 cups of coffee will bring back your driving reflexes in time for your early meeting, there is solid data to show you may be putting yourself in harm’s way

A team of European researchers explains it best: “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 magnitude of driving impairment during an alcohol hangover is comparable to a BAC between 0.05 and 0.08, which is over the legal limit for driving in many countries.”

Ford Motor Company is using a specially designed 'hangover suit' to educate drivers. PHOTO FROM FORD

To underscore the severity of the overlooked problem, Ford is using “hangover suits” developed by the Meyer-Hentschel Institute in Germany to demonstrate the risks involved in driving a car with a hangover. The suits weigh 17kg each and consist of a special vest, wrist and ankle weights, a cap, goggles and headphones. Working together, these items simulate the common symptoms associated with crapulence: fatigue, nausea, head-throbbing and a lack of focus.

There is a universal stigma attached to drunk driving, but virtually no one is talking about the dangers of hungover driving. We all like to think it takes very little to recover from a night of wild carousing. Clearly, this misconception needs to get tossed as far away as possible. Make this one of your New Year’s resolutions.

Want to try the sobering hangover suit?

Vernon B. Sarne

Vernon is the founder and editor-in-chief of VISOR. He has been an automotive journalist since July 1995. He became one by serendipity, walking into the office of a small publishing company and applying for a position he had no idea was for a local car magazine. God has watched over him throughout his humble journey. He writes the ‘Spoiler’ column.