Cyprus Mail

Ford Hangover Suit highlights serious dangers for motorists

Weighing more than 17 kg, the ‘Hangover Suit’ consists of a special vest, wrist and ankle weights, cap and goggles, and headphones. These simulate the classic hangover symptoms of fatigue, dizziness, a throbbing head and difficulty concentrating

Alcohol represents one of the greatest sources of danger for motorists. This is particularly true during the holiday season when Christmas and New Year parties are in full swing and mulled wine is increasingly popular.

“On a global level, every tenth fatal accident can be traced back to alcohol. Men are more likely to expose themselves to this danger, risking their lives with it”, says Christoph Lauterwasser, Head of the Allianz Centre for Technology (AZT).

Fatality rates of road traffic accidents caused by alcohol were investigated by the World Health Organisation (WHO). An analysis carried out by Allianz shows significant regional differences: eastern Europe and central Asia hold the tragic top position with 18.2%, followed by Europe (16.7%) and the Americas (12.9%). Meanwhile, Africa (8%), Asia Pacific (7.3%) and the Middle East (2.4%) sit well below the global average of 10.9%.

In Europe the number of fatalities in alcohol-related accidents is highest in the eastern countries. Italy, meanwhile, is top of the class with 2.7%. Germany compares relatively favourably with its fourth place ranking. On average, 8.7% of fatalities in traffic accidents are caused by alcohol. The number of severe injuries is also significantly higher when alcohol is involved.

Men aged 21-24 are the most at risk.

In most countries, men are twice as likely to be involved in fatal, alcohol-induced road accidents as women. In Germany, for example, while 12.4% of fatal accidents involving men are down to alcohol consumption, the figure lies at 4.9% for women.

Young drivers aged between 21 and 24 are also more frequently involved in accidents caused by drink-driving, as indicated by a study carried out by AZT. The figures for this age group (18%) are almost double those of the 18-20 (10%) or 25-64 groups (11%).

“Alcohol consumption and a larger risk appetite in young people are the main causes for these high accident rates”, Lauterwasser explains. “For this reason, Allianz is calling for the maximum age for the zero-alcohol-limit legislation in Germany to be raised from 21, as it currently stands, to 24.”

In addition, more frequent police controls and higher fines are an important factor when it comes to fighting drink-driving.
To avoid exposing yourself to the risk of drink-driving entirely, the best solution is to take public transport or a taxi. It is also vital not to underestimate the lingering effect of alcohol the next day; the human body is only able to break down alcohol in the blood at a rate of 0.1 per ml per hour, so it’s worth remembering that driving the morning after can be just as dangerous.

With many people drinking more than usual over the festive period, it is a peak time for drivers to take a risk that could be fatal – both for themselves and other road users.

In Europe, research shows that alcohol is a factor in one in six road accident fatalities, and in the UK one in 10 drink driving arrests take place between 06:00 and 08:00.

Ford commissioned the Hangover Suit from the renowned Meyer‑Hentschel Institute in Germany to highlight the dangers.
Weighing more than 17 kg, the ‘Hangover Suit’ consists of a special vest, wrist and ankle weights, cap and goggles, and headphones. Together, these simulate the classic hangover symptoms of fatigue, dizziness, a throbbing head and difficulty concentrating.

“There is a lot of social pressure to prevent those who may be tempted to drink drive after a night out. But many times those who drive the morning after are travelling alone,” said Ford Driving Skills for Life Manager Jim Graham. “The ‘Hangover Suit’ shows how debilitating a hangover can be and the risk that driving in that condition can present to all road users.”

Even when drivers are no longer over the legal alcohol limit they still present a risk that can be as high as for those who are drink driving, with drivers likely to be sleep deprived and their reaction times are affected.

In a sobering study, a team of researchers led by Utrecht University psychopharmacologist Joris Verster found that, even when drivers’ blood alcohol levels returned to zero the morning after a night of partying, they showed the same degree of driving impairment as drivers who were intoxicated.

“The hangover develops when blood alcohol concentration (BAC) returns to zero and is characterised by a feeling of general misery that may last up to 20 hours after alcohol consumption,” the researchers write. “The magnitude of driving impairment during alcohol hangover is comparable to a BAC between 0.05 and 0.08 %, i.e., over the legal limit for driving in many countries.”

Through its Ford Driving Skills for Life programme, Ford offers free training for young drivers. By the end of 2016, this programme will have trained more than 20,000 drivers across 13 countries in Europe. Previously, for the programme, Ford worked with the Meyer Hentschel Institute to produce a tailor-made Drink Driving Suit and Drug Driving Suit. The Hangover Suit presented different challenges.

“We did a lot of research – including analysing our own abilities after an evening of social drinking,” said Gundolf Meyer-Hentschel, CEO of the Meyer-Hentschel Institute. “For the Hangover Suit we have introduced the headphones that replicate the particular increased sensitivity to sound as well as the typical acoustic experiences of a migraine. In addition, a weighted headset, together with the goggles, simulates dizziness and a blinding headache.”

Among those who have already experienced the suit first hand is Dr Richard Stephens, a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Keele University in the UK, and an alcohol researcher with expertise in hangovers.

“People often do not realise the degree to which a hangover impacts your core ability to do anything,” said Prof. Stephens. “The Hangover Suit brings that point home loud and clear.”

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