Even inexperienced drivers know that getting behind the wheel while drunk creates a serious crash risk. Yet few people may realize that driving while hungover is also a dangerous idea.
Anderson & Cummings explains more about the dangers of driving with a hangover below, including why it greatly increases the risk of a serious crash.
Injured by a negligent driver who may have been drunk or hungover? We recommend seeking legal help from one of our knowledgeable auto accident attorneys in Fort Worth. We have a history of proven results and extensive experience with all types of car crash cases. Find out how we could benefit your claim.
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What Exactly is a Hangover?
Essentially, a hangover is your body’s reaction to drinking alcohol. For some people, these effects are the result of downing one or two drinks, for others, maybe more. The reason for this is that everyone responds differently to alcohol. There are many things that contribute to the individual symptoms you may experience, including how much alcohol you consumed, your height and body weight and the type of alcohol you drank. Mixing different types of alcohol, which is not a good idea, is also a factor.
Even those with a higher tolerance for alcohol may experience some or all of the following symptoms when they are hungover:
- Feeling dizzy, unbalanced or even having some vertigo
- Having a bad headache
- Struggling with nausea or vomiting
- Being more sensitive to any amount of light
- Difficulties focusing or concentrating
- Mild to severe stomach pain
- Dehydrated or extremely thirsty
- Increased blood pressure
- Fatigued and weak
- Muscle and body aches
One common myth is that if your BAC returns to zero or near zero, you are good to drive. However, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says this is when hangover symptoms are at their peak. A hangover can last for 24 hours or even longer.
Why is it Unsafe to Drive While Hungover?
Getting behind the wheel a few hours after drinking or even the morning after a night of partying may seem okay. Most people think if they do not feel buzzed, their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) has returned to zero. Yet several studies show that even when your BAC is back to normal, you may not be. In fact, research shows that driving while hungover is very similar to driving with a BAC that is between 0.05 percent and 0.08 percent.
In short, what this means is that your ability to focus on the road and any potential hazards is similar to if you were driving drunk. Driving with a hangover makes driving dangerous and increases the risk of a crash in many ways, including making drivers more likely to:
- Drift out of their lane of traffic – At a minimum, this could cause you to sideswipe another vehicle or drift into a lane of oncoming traffic without even realizing it.
- React more slowly – The risk here is that you may be unable to brake in time at an intersection or in an emergency to avoid hitting another vehicle or object.
- Exhibit impaired judgement –Your ability to avoid driving errors and judge important things, like the distance between you and another vehicle, is extremely reduced.
- Have blurry vision – Another common hangover symptom, which can make it difficult to see other vehicles, road signs and hazards easily. You may not see fast enough, for instance, to avoid hitting a pedestrian or cyclist.
- Struggle to maintain a safe or steady speed – Drivers who are hungover are often heavy-footed and may have a hard time staying within the posted speed limits.
- Be on edge and irritable – Just the fact you feel ill while driving can be enough to make you more likely to drive aggressively or engage in an act of road rage. For instance, you may be more likely to brake check, follow another car too closely or speed to beat a red light.
What Happens if a Hungover Driver Causes a Crash?
People who cause a crash because they were driving while hungover are likely to be held fully liable for the damages. That said, being drunk or hungover will not automatically make any driver liable for a collision. There will still be an investigation to determine who and what led to the crash.
Additionally, if you are injured by a driver you believe was drunk or hungover, the burden of proving that driver’s negligence is on you – or your attorney. This is why it is often a good idea to speak with a lawyer after any serious traffic incident.
Does Texas Have Penalties for Driving While Hungover?
Texas has penalties for those who drive with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or higher. However, the law also states that if alcohol affects your ability to drive safely, you are breaking the law whether or not your BAC is at or below the legal limit.
The penalties for breaking this law are stiff, even for first-offenders. Those guilty of causing a crash while drunk or hungover as a first offender can expect to pay as much as $2,000. They will also lose their license for a year and, if convicted, spend between 3 and 180 days in jail. The penalties, fines and jail time become much greater with repeat offenses.
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