Driving while intoxicated is against the law in Pennsylvania, as in other states, but when do those alcoholic drinks stop affecting you? How soon after drinking is it safe to get behind the wheel again? Does driving while hungover increase your crash risk?
Schmidt Kramer answers these and other questions below, including why driving with a hangover creates a serious crash risk that is very similar to driving drunk. Drivers in this condition who cause an auto accident can be held liable and may also risk being ticketed for a DUI.
Were you injured in crash caused by a drunk or hungover driver? If so, we strongly recommend seeking legal help right away. We offer a FREE case review with an experienced auto accident attorney in Harrisburg. If you choose our firm to represent you, there are also no upfront costs to pay.
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Is Driving While Hungover the Same as Driving Drunk?
Technically, a driver with a hangover may no longer be drunk. In other words, your blood alcohol level may no longer register in the illegal range. In Pennsylvania, the blood alcohol content (BAC) limit is .08. If you are a commercial driver, it is even lower, at .04. However, even if your BAC has returned to 0.0, it may still be unsafe for you to get behind the wheel.
This is where things can get tricky, because most of us have always thought that once your BAC returns to zero, you are good to go. Unfortunately, even after your BAC returns to zero, your body is still processing the effects of alcohol. Those effects can cause you to feel really unwell. Most people feel tired and disoriented after a night of drinking. However, feeling unfocused or fatigued is only the tip of the iceberg. When you add in other factors and symptoms people experience when they are hungover, you may begin to see why driving in this condition could be dangerous.
How Does Driving Hungover Increase the Risk of a Crash?
Getting behind the wheel and driving while hungover presents a serious crash risk because it impairs your ability to drive safely in many ways. While you are hungover and your body is still processing the alcohol you consumed, you are likely to experience:
Reduced Reaction Time
It is no secret that when you are drunk, your reaction time is slowed. However, your reaction time is also impaired when you have a hangover. This is critical when driving, because if there is a road hazard, such as a deer, pothole, object or pedestrian, you may not be able to stop in time to avoid a crash.
In addition to your reaction time being impaired, you may not be able to even decide what to do in the event of an emergency situation. Before you can take any action, you have to decide what to do.
Even if you are able to decide what to do, such as applying your brakes or steering away from a situation, your coordination is likely to be poor when hungover. Being in this state can make it harder for you to control your vehicle, brake quickly enough or steer without overturning.
What Are Some Common Hangover Symptoms?
Being hungover is extremely unpleasant for most people. These common symptoms only emphasize why someone in this condition should not be driving:
- Bad headaches, which may be accompanied by muscle pain
- Overall body fatigue and muscle weakness
- Sensitivity to light, which can make it difficult to see traffic or potential road hazards
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Moodiness and irritability
- Feeling mentally drowsy and unable to focus
- Blurry vision
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Extreme dehydration and thirst
- Sensitivity to sound
- Increased heartrate
Considering these symptoms and the way they cause impairment; the reasonable decision is to choose not to drive. Anyone in this condition should wait until they have no more symptoms and they feel completely sober before getting behind the wheel.
How Long Should I Wait to Get Behind the Wheel After Drinking?
The length of time people are affected by alcohol, including how badly and how long they are hungover, varies. This is because everyone’s body processes alcohol differently.
According to AAA, it can take as long as 75-90 minutes or more for your body to completely process and eliminate the alcohol from just one “standard-sized” drink. However, this is only a guideline. There are many other factors that affect this timeframe, including the type and amount of alcohol.
There are other factors that determine how long alcohol stays in your system, such as your height, weight, and metabolism. However, even your gender and genetics can have an impact on how long it takes before you feel completely sober again.
Women, for example, have less water in their bloodstream so they take longer to sober up than a man of the same general height and weight. People who are younger also take longer to recover from a night of drinking. This is because younger individuals generally have more water in their bloodstream and also a higher fat to muscle ratio.
Some people are naturally more affected by alcohol. Regardless, every driver has a legal duty not to get behind the wheel until sober. This means making the reasonable decision to take a rideshare or sleep it off at a friend’s house.
Liability for Driving While Hungover
Drivers who get behind the wheel despite being drunk, buzzed or hungover can be fully liable if a crash results.
Pennsylvania is strict when it comes to driving while impaired by alcohol. If a crash results or even if you just get pulled over for driving recklessly, the penalties are severe, even for first-time offenders. If you are under 21 years of age and are pulled over for a DUI, there is zero tolerance.
Consequences for a first-time offense include:
- A 12 to 18-month suspension of your license
- From 48 hours and up to six months in jail
- Hefty fines, ranging from $500 to 5,000
Need Legal Help After a Crash With a Hungover Driver?
Whether the negligent driver who hit your vehicle was hungover or completely impaired by alcohol, we are prepared to help. We have the staff and resources to fully investigate the cause of your crash.
At Schmidt Kramer, we have a history of success, and we always fight to recover the maximum possible compensation for our clients.
Concerned about the cost? There is no need to worry about that. We take auto accident cases on contingency. This means no upfront costs to you, and we only get paid our fees if we win.
Millions recovered for our clients. (717) 727-1403