Predicting perceived safety to drive the morning after drinking: The importance of hangover symptoms

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Introduction and Aims.

People driving the day after drinking are at risk of impaired performance and accidents due to continued intoxication or the effects of alcohol hangover. Drivers are poor at estimating their own blood alcohol concentration, and some drive despite believing they are over the legal limit. It is therefore important to identify other factors influencing perceived ability to drive ‘the morning after’. This study tested how accurately participants estimated their legal driving status, and the contribution of beliefs and hangover symptoms to the prediction of perceived driving safety.

Design and Methods.

This cross-sectional study involved 193 students completing a questionnaire and alcohol breath test the morning after heavy alcohol consumption. Indicators of subjective intoxication, severity of hangover symptoms, estimated legal status and perceived safety to drive were measured. A hierarchical linear regression analysis was conducted.


No participants thought they were under the English legal limit when they were not, and 47% thought they were over the limit when they were in fact legally permissible to drive. However, 20% of those believing they were over the limit nevertheless rated themselves as safe to drive. Hangover symptoms added 17% variance to the prediction of perceived safety to drive, over and above objective and subjective measures of intoxication.

Discussion and Conclusions.

Perceived severity of hangover symptoms influence beliefs about driving ability: When judging safety to drive, people experiencing less severe symptoms believe they are less impaired. If this finding is robust, health promotion campaigns should aim to correct this misapprehension. [Cameron E, French D. Predicting perceived safety to drive the morning after drinking: The importance of hangover symptoms. Drug Alcohol Rev 2016;35:442–446]

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