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Drinking & Driving

A new study indicates that alcohol may cause older drivers to become impaired faster, putting others at risk.

It is natural for the body to begin to slow down the older people become. For those living in New York, this can include having less energy or developing health conditions like diabetes and heart disease. However, aging can have another impact and that is on how the body absorbs alcohol.

Testing drivers under the legal limit

A new study suggests that older drivers can become impaired after having just one alcoholic drink, even if their blood alcohol content level stays below the legal limit. The study, which was conducted by the University of Florida, looked at driver behavior in people of different ages. Researchers recruited 72 drivers with no health issues and then conducted two separate tests.

In one test, the group was asked to take a simulated road test. Before doing so, however, they were divided into three subgroups and given something to drink. One group drank an alcoholic drink that would give them a BAC of .065, the second group consumed an alcoholic drink that would create a BAC of .04 and the third group drank something without any alcohol in it. In the other test, drivers were not given any alcoholic drinks.

Impairment occurs faster with age

When the results of the driving tests were analyzed by researchers, they discovered a clear difference of impairment in drivers who were over the age of 55. Those drivers were unable to handle the windy road environment as well as the younger drivers after they consumed alcohol. Researchers looked at drivers’ ability to steer, drive at a constant speed and remain in the lane while maneuvering the curves. The study shows that one alcoholic drink could be enough to impair the driving abilities of older people.

Effects of alcohol on older people

The National Institute on Aging points out that alcohol affects people differently but older people can be much more sensitive. The reasons vary but one of the factors that may play a role is the use of any medications. The agency states that it is important for people to pay attention to the directions on the medication label. If the label recommends that people avoid drinking alcohol, then they should adhere to that directive. Some medications, when mixed with alcohol, can cause issues with coordination and alertness.

The other thing that older drivers should take into consideration, is that they do not have the same amount of water in their bodies that younger drivers do. Water affects dilution of alcohol and with less water, it means that older people are going to show signs of inebriation quicker and their BAC may actually measure higher.

People of all ages in New York have a responsibility to refrain from behaviors or acts that will cause harm to others around them. When people have been injured in a traffic accident, the law gives them certain rights. Speaking with an attorney can help them understand what those rights are.