Effects of alcohol hangover on simulated highway driving performance



The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of alcohol hangover on simulated highway driving performance.


Driving performance of forty-two social drinkers was tested the morning following an evening of consuming on average 10.2 (SD = 4.2) alcoholic drinks (alcohol hangover) and on a control day (no alcohol consumed). Subjects performed a standardized 100-km highway driving test in the STISIM driving simulator. In addition to the standard deviation of lateral position (SDLP; i.e., the weaving of the car), lapses of attention were examined. Self-reported driving quality and driving style were scored, as well as mental effort to perform the test, sleepiness before and after driving, and hangover severity.


Driving performance was significantly impaired during alcohol hangover as expressed by an SDLP increase of +1.9 cm (t (1,41) = 2.851, p = 0.007), increased number of lapses relative to the control day (7.7 versus 5.3 lapses, t (1,41) = 2.125, p = 0.019), and an increased total lapse time (182.7 versus 127.3 s, p = 0.040). During alcohol hangover, subjects reported their driving quality to be significantly poorer (t (1,41) = 4.840, p = 0.001) and less safe (t (1,41) = 5.078, p = 0.001), wise (t (1,41) = 4.061, p = 0.001), predictable (t (1,41) = 3.475, p = 0.001), and responsible (t (1,41) = 4.122, p = 0.001). Subjects further reported being significantly more tense while driving (t (1,41) = 3.280, p = 0.002), and more effort was needed to perform the driving test (t (1,41) = 2.941, p = 0.001). There was a significant interaction with total sleep time and hangover effects on SDLP and the number of lapses.


In conclusion, driving is significantly impaired during alcohol hangover, as expressed in an elevated SDLP and increased number of lapses. Total sleep time has a significant impact on the magnitude of driving impairment.

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Thanks to Gene Laska for his help with the symmetry analysis and Pieter van Dorp van Vliet for the artwork.

Conflict of interest

This study was funded by Utrecht University.

Joris Verster has received grants/research support from the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, Takeda, and Red Bull and has acted as a consultant for the Canadian Beverage Association, Centraal Bureau Drogisterijbedrijven, Coleman Frost, Deenox, Purdue, Red Bull, Sanofi-Aventis, Sepracor, Takeda, Transcept, and Trimbos Institute.

Thomas Roth has received grants/research support from Aventis, Cephalon, GlaxoSmithKline, Neurocrine, Pfizer, Sanofi, Schering-Plough, Sepracor, Somaxon, Syrex, Takeda, TransOral, Wyeth, and Xenoport; has acted as a consultant for Abbott, Acadia, Acoglix, Actelion, Alchemers, Alza, Ancil, Arena, AstraZeneca, Aventis, AVER, BMS, BTG, Cephalon, Cypress, Dove, Elan, Eli Lilly, Evotec, Forest, GlaxoSmithKline, Hypnion, Impax, Intec, Intra-Cellular, Jazz, Johnson & Johnson, King, Lundbeck, McNeil, MediciNova, Merck, Neurim, Neurocrine, Neurogen, Novartis, Orexo, Organon, Prestwick, Procter & Gamble, Pfizer, Purdue, Resteva, Roche, Sanofi, Schering-Plough, Sepracor, Servier, Shire, Somaxon, Syrex, Takeda, TransOral, Vanda, Vivometrics, Wyeth, Yamanuchi, and Xenoport.

Berend Olivier is a scientific advisor for Emotional Brain BV and has received research support from Emotional Brain, PsychoGenics Inc, Sepracor, Servier, Abbott, and the Dutch Brain Research Organization.

Karel Brookhuis has received grants/research support from NWO, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, European Commission, Wyeth, Sanofi, Schering, Nissan, JARI, Mercedes Benz, and Verbond van Verzekeraars.

The other authors have no potential conflicts of interest to disclose.

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Verster, J.C., Bervoets, A.C., de Klerk, S. et al. Effects of alcohol hangover on simulated highway driving performance. Psychopharmacology 231, 2999–3008 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-014-3474-9

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  • Alcohol
  • Hangover
  • Driving
  • SDLP
  • Lapses