Study: Alcohol may affect older drivers sooner

A new study shows that older people who drink alcohol may become impaired sooner than younger ones.

Alcoholic drinks are a staple in many people's lives but when combined with driving, they can result in tragedy for innocent victims. The 2016 Illinois DUI Fact Book states that in 2014, there were 924 fatal traffic accidents and 30 percent of them involved the use of alcohol. While the majority of people who were arrested for DUI in the state were between the ages of 21 and 24, a recent study shows that alcohol may affect older drivers much sooner, putting others on the road around them at risk.

Alcohol vs. no alcohol

The study, conducted by the University of Florida, involved a simulated road test and examined drivers' skills with the influence of alcohol and without. Three groups of drivers were asked to drive along a winding road in the country for a distance of three miles. One group's blood alcohol content was .065, one group's was .04 and the other group had consumed no alcohol.

When researchers compared the results, they discovered that the older drivers had more difficulty with precision skills than the younger ones, and those older drivers with a higher BAC were found to have a poorer score than those with a lower BAC or no alcohol in their system. Half of the drivers were between 55 and 70 years of age while the other half was between 25 and 36 years of age. The study was considered a small one as there were only 72 drivers who participated.

Alcohol and aging

AARP points out that as people age, alcohol can begin to have different effects on them from when they were younger. Part of the reason is that the alcohol will actually remain in the body longer due to the fact that the body cannot break it down as quickly. In fact, while some people believe that coffee consumption can make them sober at a faster rate, this is not correct.

Other factors that may affect how alcohol will impact a person's BAC includes the following:

  • Food consumption
  • Physical condition
  • Time of day
  • Gender
  • Age

Medications can also have a great influence on how impaired an older person can become. This is not surprising, since many medications come with directions that prohibit the use of alcohol. The National Institute on Aging encourages older people to talk with their doctor about alcohol usage if they are on any kind of medication, whether it is prescription or just something on the counter in the local drug store. The combination of some anti-depression medications, pain or sleeping pills with alcohol can lead to a higher risk of car crashes.

People in Chicago who have been injured in a car accident often have a long road of physical, mental and financial recovery ahead of them. They may find it reassuring to discuss their situation with an experienced and knowledgeable attorney.