Don't Drink and Drive Over 55 -- Years, That Is

Yet one more reason to hate getting older.  If you're 55 or older, one drink may do you in.  At least, for driving.

According to a new study, once you reach a certain age, "That single serving may hit you hard enough to make you a dangerous driver." reports that research showed that a blood alcohol level of 0.08, all states' legal driving limit, or equal to just one drink, can affect the driving abilities of older drivers.

“These simulations have been used a lot in looking at older adults, and they have been used at looking how alcohol affects the driving of younger adults, but no one’s ever looked at the combination of aging drivers and alcohol,” the Web site quotes University of Florida doctoral candidate Alfredo Sklar.

In one part of the study researchers put together a group of 25-to-35-year-olds and another one of people ages 55 to 70.  Each group was completely sober.  On a simulated winding 3-mile stretch of country road, researchers assessed the ability of drivers to stay in the center of their lane and maintain a constant speed. They also looked at how rapidly they adjusted their steering wheel.

On a later day, the groups were further separated into groups. The first drank a diet lemon-lime soda misted with a negligible amount of alcohol to mimic the experience of drinking alcohol. A second group’s drink was strong enough to produce a 0.04 percent breath alcohol level, and a third group’s drink gave them a breath alcohol level of 0.065 percent — still below the federal legal level for drinking of 0.08.

Participants then completed the same driving task they performed when they were sober. Researchers timed the task so participants’ alcohol levels were declining to mimic a situation in which individuals have a drink with dinner and then drive home.

In younger adults, the researchers found alcohol consumption did not affect their measured driving skills at all. But for the older drivers, the small, legal levels of intoxication did affect their driving.

So are older people going to stop drinking and driving?  Of course not.  We don't pick designated drivers for people this age but maybe we should start.


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