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DUIs Among Aging Adults: How Getting Older Affects Your Driving

Portrait Of Smiling Senior Woman Driving Car - dangers of elderly drivers blog postWhen most people think of risks and accidents that occur on the interstate each year, they automatically think of teenagers. Of course, this is for good reason because new drivers tend to have a bit of arrogance and obviously don’t possess the amount of experience necessary to avoid the pitfalls roadways present.

What most people don’t consider are the startling stats regarding the dangers of elderly drivers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides some impactful information regarding some of the dangers of elderly drivers, based on data from 2015:

  • 40 million licensed drivers in the United States were at least 65 years old, which was a 50% increase from 1999;
  • More than 260,000 senior citizens in the U.S. were treated in the E.R. following motor vehicle crashes;
  • More than 6,800 older adults were killed in roadway crashes;

The aforementioned data translates to an average of 19 older adults dying—and 712 more incurring injuries—in car crashes every day in 2015.

One may assume many of these crashes could have simply resulted from the fact that drivers’ reflexes and ability to react diminish as they age. Age likely does have something to do with many of these incidents, but there’s a lot more than comes with aging than simply being slower to step on the brakes.

How Getting Older Affects Driving Ability

Aging is a normal part of life, but there are many daily tasks that need to be adapted to as people age. Because driving entails so many distractions, older adults may not be able to respond in time when problematic situations arise. Here are a few examples of the dangers of elderly drivers:

  • Diminished hearing can make it difficult for seniors to hear oncoming medical vehicles or horns when other drivers are trying to warn of hazards. People who are unable to hear sirens may find themselves directly in the paths of emergency vehicles.
  • Slowed reaction times are normal for aging adults. The body’s muscles aren’t as reactive as they once were; in a driving situation, this can spell devastating results if a collision or other immediate circumstance occurs.
  • Neck pain or stiffness often makes it difficult for older drivers to look over their shoulders so they can see cars that may be in their blind spots.

These situations are normal for most elderly drivers, but there are even bigger concerns when drinking and driving is concerned as people age.

Medication Considerations

Many older drivers are on medications for one thing or another. It’s important to understand that medications have a significant effect on the body, including the liver’s ability to process alcohol. A couple glasses of wine may not have affected you when you were 25, but at the age of 65, two glasses may affect your body quite differently.

If you’re taking virtually any medication, the effects of alcohol will compound differently on your body than they otherwise would. Alcohol, combined with medication, can elicit any number of problems behind the wheel, including drowsiness, changes in blood pressure, loss of coordination, and dizziness.

Without medication, you may be able to drink a glass or two of wine without inhibiting your ability to drive. On medication, however, you’re facing a far different circumstance. If you choose to drive after you’ve been drinking and while you’re on medication, you may find yourself facing the hand of the law.

Increased Sensitivity to Alcohol

Even if you’re not on medication, it’s still important to be aware of your body before you get behind the wheel. Your body is tasked with breaking down food and drinks, putting them in their places as they’re consumed. As you age, your body becomes less able to put these particles in their various buckets, which may cause you to experience an increased sensitivity to alcohol you’ve never known before.

It doesn’t pay to find out the hard way. In the end, be aware of the ways alcohol affects your body, and if you can’t drive, don’t. There are plenty of options today that will allow you to arrive back at your home safely, without interference from the law.

Tips to Keeps Seniors Safe Behind the Wheel

Older drivers have a number of considerations to take into account: Are they on medication? How much alcohol are they planning to drink? How will their bodies handle the wine, beer, or liquor they’ve chosen to consume?

Fortunately, in this day and age, no one has to get behind the wheel after they’ve been drinking. Car services such as Lyft and Uber are widely available, enabling people to get safely from one place to another without worry of getting behind the wheel intoxicated.

Here are some other things you can do to stay safe:

  • Read the warning labels on your prescriptions. Labels typically advise patients not to consume alcohol while they’re taking medication. If your medications have this indication, it’s highly advisable that you not get behind the wheel if you do decide to drink. This warning is telling you the effects of the drug will be heightened if you drink.
  • Talk to your doctor. Regular checkups are important for people as they age. Your doctor may be able to identify situations that could otherwise become problems down the road.
  • Know your limits. Your body is changing, and it’s going to respond to alcohol a lot differently than it did when you were younger. Remember, you could legally be considered too drunk to drive after having only a small amount of alcohol, depending on your how body is able to metabolize the inebriating substances. Don’t take a chance. If you have any doubt, designate someone else to drive you home,

If you’re a person in your Golden Years, who’s experienced the misfortune of a recent DUI, now is your time to put up a fight. You don’t want to go to court without an advocate by your side. California DUI attorney Jon Artz is here to help. Reach out to him day or night online or call (310) 820-1315.

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