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Study Reports Driving while Hung-over Could be As Dangerous as Drunk Driving

Update Date: Dec 10, 2013 10:20 AM EST
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Over the past decades, government agencies and other organizations have jumpstarted campaigns to combat drunk driving, especially in young adults. Drunk driving is an extremely risky behavior that puts drivers, passengers and pedestrians in danger. In two studies conducted separately by associate professor, Chris Alford from the University of the West of England and assistant professor, Joris Verster from Utrecht University in the Netherlands, the researchers reported that driving after a night of heavy drinking could be as dangerous as drunk driving.

In the first study, Alford experimented on participants' ability to drive after a night of drinking. The participants were asked to drive in a simulation that involved both urban and rural settings. The participants had to drive safely without jeopardizing the lives of the simulated pedestrians and other drivers for 20 minutes. In this UK study, Alford found that people who were hung-over were more likely to have an increase in speed variability, driving errors and deviation from driving position. These drivers also had poor reaction times.

"This was a naturalistic design of study, aiming to better reflect what happens in real life when people go to work the next day after drinking. The significant impairments seen here, after a relatively short driving duration reflecting a typical commute to work and using a more mentally demanding driving environment, represent a new finding," Alford said according to Medical Xpress. "This simulation represented a situation many people can relate to. They may already be aware of not driving home after a night out drinking, but we also need to advise them to plan for the next day so they won't be driving to work impaired."

In the Dutch study, Verster recruited healthy participants and used a one-hour driving simulation test. People who were hung-over were defined as having ten or more alcoholic drinks the night before. Verster found that people who were hung-over had a higher number of lapses in their concentration while driving and were more likely to deviate from their driving position. Verster found that hung-over participants had a harder time driving even though their blood alcohol content (BAC) levels returned to normal.

The complementary studies suggest that in order to be safe, people should avoid driving when they are hung-over. The researchers presented the complementary studies at the Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and Other Drugs (APSAD) 2013 Conference.

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