Why Driving While Hungover Could Increase the Risk of a Dangerous Crash in Windsor, Ontario

female driver falling asleep on steering wheelEveryone knows drunk driving is incredibly dangerous. Many of us have heard the alarming statistics about impaired driving.

However, many people assume driving while hungover is safe. They do not realize hangovers can greatly impair their ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.

Below, Greg Monforton and Partners’ experienced Windsor vehicle crash lawyers discuss the dangers of driving with a hangover. We also talk about liability for these collisions in Ontario. Even if the at-fault driver is not charged with drunk driving, his or her negligence is the likely cause of the crash.

No upfront fees. Call us today to discuss your claim: (866) 320-4770.

Can You Still Be Drunk the Next Day?

You might think it is perfectly safe to drive the morning after a night of drinking alcohol. You may assume your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is back to zero, which means you are legally allowed to drive.

However, even if your BAC is at zero, alcohol can continue to affect brain function. This is one of the main conclusions from research done at Utrecht University in the Netherlands and the University of West England.

The Utrecht University study involved 48 people who consumed 10 alcoholic drinks. After their BAC dropped down to zero, they did a driving simulation. All the participants displayed erratic driving behavior and decreased attentiveness. The conclusion was that impairment from a hangover is like the impairment experienced by those whose BAC is between 0.05 percent and 0.08 percent.

The University of West England conducted a similar study, except the participants drove on a closed course for 20 minutes. Drivers made many errors, had slower reaction times, and committed numerous infractions, like running red lights.

You should not assume your BAC has returned to zero just because you went to sleep, or it has been a few hours since you consumed alcohol. Some people consumed so much alcohol, or there are certain genetic and biological factors at play, that they could still be drunk the next morning.

Some people metabolize alcohol slower than others because of genetic variations in the enzymes that break down alcohol in the bloodstream. This explains why some people may begin to feel drunk on a smaller quantity of alcohol than others.

Another factor to consider is women do not have as much water in their bloodstreams as men because men tend to weigh more than women. Women tend to have a higher BAC for longer than men.

The more someone weighs, the more water their bloodstream contains, which often means it takes more alcohol for someone to get drunk as their weight increases.

Some of the other factors that affect your body’s reaction to alcohol include:

Your Age

The older you are, the higher your fat-to-muscle ratio is likely to be. The more fat you have, the less water your bloodstream is going to contain. This means older people are more likely to have stronger reactions to alcohol.

What You Were Drinking

If you were drinking strong alcohol, it is more likely to affect you hours later or even the next morning. However, if you consumed water, soda or other non-alcoholic fluids in addition to alcohol, you may be less likely to experience side effects the next morning.

Your Overall Health

People who are in poor or declining health are more likely to have a strong reaction to alcohol. However, even if you are in good health, consuming a lot of alcohol can affect you for a long time.

Dangers of Driving While Hungover

Even if you are not drunk, you could be hungover. It is dangerous to drive while hungover because it is going to be difficult to concentrate on the task of driving. A hangover can have effects that are like being drunk. Even though it may be legal for you to be behind the wheel, it might not be safe.

A hangover can cause a wide variety of symptoms that make it tougher to be a safe driver, such as:

  • Feeling sick to your stomach
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Dehydration
  • Struggling with sensitivity to light and sound
  • Feeling irritable
  • Feeling shaky

These and other factors can affect your reaction time. Even if you are paying attention, you might not react in time to avoid a collision. Just as driving while drowsy is dangerous, so is driving with a hangover that makes you tired. If you cannot devote all your attention to driving, you may be at a much higher risk of getting into a crash.

Hungover drivers may be at higher risk of:

  • Drifting out of their lane
  • Speeding
  • Driving too slowly
  • Forgetting to use turn signals
  • Road rage
  • Running red lights or stop signs
  • Making turns when oncoming traffic is too close

Some drivers assume they can counteract the effects of a hangover by drinking a lot of water or coffee. They may take a shower and have a big meal in hopes it will give them energy to overcome their hangover symptoms. However, the only thing that truly counteracts alcohol is time. Even sleep is not going to eliminate the effects of a hangover.

If you need to ask yourself if you are sober enough to drive, there is a good chance you are not. Drinking caffeine or taking other steps to counteract hangover symptoms is also an indication you are too impaired to drive.

Is It Illegal to Drive Hungover in Ontario?

The answer to this question depends on the driver’s BAC level. In Ontario, it is illegal to drive a car while your BAC is at 0.08 or higher. Drivers could also face charges if their BAC is somewhere between 0.05 and 0.079.

It is possible for someone’s BAC to be at an illegal level after a night of drinking, depending on what they drank, how much, and genetic and lifestyle factors. That means some people who drive while hungover may be breaking the law.

However, even if you are not technically breaking the law, it may be unsafe to be behind the wheel while experiencing symptoms of a hangover.

Can Drivers Be Held Liable for Crashing While Hungover?

Even if a driver’s BAC is not at an illegal level, hangover symptoms could result in the driver causing a crash. The police might not be able to charge the driver for driving while impaired, but he or she is still going to be at fault for the collision.

In these situations, the at-fault driver’s hangover does not matter much. He or she was negligent and probably should not have been on the road in the first place. Your lawyer may try to use evidence of the at-fault driver’s hangover to bolster claims about other forms of negligent driving this person engaged in. Evidence of a hangover or drinking the night before makes it harder to dispute the driver’s negligence at the wheel.

Contact Us After Suffering a Car Crash Injury

Drunk or impaired driving puts everyone on the road at risk. Many times, these crashes result in life-altering or fatal injuries.

If you were a victim of this type of crash or lost a loved one in this type of crash, we may be able to help you explore your legal options. While compensation cannot change what has occurred, recovering compensation is an important step in the aftermath of the accident.

At our firm, we do not charge any upfront fees for our services. That means an initial consultation is free and we do not charge fees while working on your case.

Give us a call today to learn more:
(866) 320-4770.