Study: One Drink May Be One Too Many for Older Drivers

A recent study suggests that older drivers can be impaired after just one drink.

Virtually anytime that they get behind the wheel, California motorists can come face-to-face with one of the biggest threats on the road drivers. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, drunk driving accidents claimed the lives of 802 California motorists in 2012 or 28 percent of the all the traffic deaths in the state that year. According to a recent study, it is not always the person that has had several drinks that you need to fear. On the contrary, the study found that drivers over the age of 50 that have consumed just one drink are a significant threat to other motorists.

One drink is all it takes

For several years, scientists have known that people’s tolerance for alcohol decreases as they get older. However, it was assumed that this decrease in tolerance did not significantly affect an older person’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle, assuming that he or she was within the legal limit.

During the study, researchers from the University of Florida set out to test this assumption. They studied the effects of alcohol on two groups: one group was between the ages of 25 and 36 and the other between 55 and 70. Each group was asked to use a simulator to take a driving test-once while sober and once after consuming one drink. Some of the drinks contained alcohol, but some contained a placebo.

If the participant received alcohol, the drink was designed to raise his or her blood alcohol level to .04 percent, which is about half the legal limit. While in the simulator, each group’s ability to stay in their lanes, steer with precision and maintain a sustained speed was measured.

Once the results were analyzed, it was found that members of the younger group performed well, regardless of whether they had been given alcohol. Unfortunately, alcohol seriously diminished the performance of the older group, making them prone to car accidents.

The ability of just one drink to affect the performance of older people is quite distressing, considering that a large portion of drivers on the road are within this age group. This group of drivers is expected to increase significantly as better nutrition and health care has caused the population of older Americans to swell. However the study’s results are more alarming considering that the simulator used driving scenarios that were significantly less taxing than real-world conditions, which suggests that the drivers’ performance under everyday circumstances would have been much worse.

Legal remedies for injured drivers

Under California law, drivers that injure or kill others while driving with a blood alcohol level above the legal limit can be held civilly accountable for the medical bills, loss of wages and other expenses that they cause their victims to incur. Unfortunately, liability becomes less clear-cut if the driver is under the legal limit. As a result, if you or a close relative are injured or killed in an accident involving an impaired driver, it is wise to consult an experienced personal injury attorney. An attorney can listen to the details of your circumstances and advise you of the legal remedies available in your unique situation.