Hit & Run

Driving While Hungover


Spirit Sciences USA is "dedicated to making a positive contribution to society by pioneering a new category of health products into mainstream retail that focuses on harm reduction for adults who are exposed to health risks associated with alcohol and tobacco consumption." The company's "philosophy is rooted in strong belief that harm reduction, combined with proper education and awareness, is an effective and honest way to deal with alcohol and tobacco-related public health issues."

Sounds pretty good, except for the overly broad interpretation of "public health." But yesterday I received a press release from Spirit Sciences calling for the criminalization of "DWH"--"driving while hungover." The company reports that "Sweden's National Road and Traffic Research Institute found that an eight-hour-after hangover decreases visual/spatial skills, including driving ability, by 20% or more, thus making it just as dangerous of an alcohol-induced impairment as the actual intoxication."

That's rather vague. Exactly what level of "intoxication" is a hangover equivalent to, in terms of impairment? And what sort of hangover are we talking about? A mild headache and dry mouth? Or a pounding head, blurred vision, and extreme nausea?

It's certainly plausible that a hangover could affect your ability to drive, but the same is true for a wide range of conditions, including a cold, inadequate sleep, distraction, depression, and anger. The wisdom of criminalizing each possible factor--as opposed to penalizing people when such conditions result in careless driving--is open to question.

But not by Spirit Sciences, which makes "an all-natural supplement" called RU-21 aimed at preventing hangovers and "is in the final stages of developing a technology capable of detecting a hangover and measuring its severity" for use by police.