Metro reporter Shelley Williamson tests her level of impairment the morning after drinking nine beers.

Commuters who climb behind the wheel after a long night at the watering hole are often contending with more than just a hangover.

In fact, sometimes they aren’t even hungover yet.

“First of all, you have the alcohol that’s affecting your reaction time, but you also have to add in the lack of sleep,” says Const. Rob Haffner of the Calgary Police Service alcohol education unit. “You can still very well be impaired.”

To put Haffner’s concerns to the test, four Metro reporters signed on to mimic the practices of a so-called “mid-week bender.”

Each participant consumed as many cans of beer as they could over a five-hour period, then caught a couple of quick hours of shut-eye. In the morning, Haffner met the group at the police’s traffic section headquarters to test their level of impairment.

Two staff members blew over the legal blood-alcohol limit of 80 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood and would have faced serious penalty under the Criminal Code of Canada. The other two participants also displayed numerous signs of impairment, including bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and reduced vision.

Haffner said he would have issued suspensions of one degree or another to each would-be driver.

“The best rule is that if you still feel the effects of the night before, don’t drive,” he said.

Calgary police do not track morning-impairment statistics. However, Haffner said it is something that’s being considered to get the message across to people.

The police aren’t the only ones concerned.

“It’s a real problem,” said Denise Dubyk, president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada.

“It’s not something people necessarily think about but it definitely happens.”

Methodology
• Each Metro staff member ate a meal before consuming alcohol but not during the experiment.

• Only beer with standard alcohol content and some water was consumed. Const. Rob Haffner of Calgary Police Service said combining hard liquor would have pushed blood-alcohol readings considerably higher.

• The two breathalyzer tests of each Metro staffer were conducted 10 minutes apart roughly 30 minutes after waking up. These test results are meant as     examples only.

Metro’s testers

James Paton, 25
Height: 187 centimetres
Weight: 80 kilograms
Beers consumed: 7
Sleep: 4 hours
First reading: 45 milligrams
Second reading: 36 milligrams

Katie Turner, 22
Height: 169 centimetres
Weight: 61 kilograms
Beers consumed: 7
Sleep: 4 hours
First reading: 51 milligrams
Second reading: 58 milligrams

Shelley Williamson, 40
Height: 157 centimetres
Weight: 57 kilograms
Beers consumed: 9
Sleep: 3.5 hours
First reading: 105 milligrams
Second reading: 80 milligrams

Jeremy Nolais, 23
Height: 183 centimetres
Weight: 95 kilograms
Beers consumed: 9
Sleep: 3.5 hours
First reading: 83 milligrams
Second reading: 105 milligrams

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