Older drivers may be unfit to drive after one drink

older driversThe only thing you are guaranteed when it comes to aging is that things change. Your body, long used to performing at a certain level, can start to become affected by things that may never have affected you before. Case in point? A recent psychological study comparing older and younger drivers has found that one drink may be all it takes to make it too dangerous for drivers age 55 and older to get behind the wheel.

The University of Florida study compared the driving abilities of the participants, with 36 of them between the ages of 25 to 35 and another 36 older drivers between the ages of 55 to 70. All participants were asked to drive down a 3-mile stretch of road on a virtual course via a simulator. During the virtual simulation, all participants scored well for driving abilities.

Participants were then given a single drink, and although all participants were below the legal definition for intoxication, the older drivers were affected enough that they performed poorly on the follow up simulation and were deemed too dangerous to drive. Younger drivers were unaffected by the single drink.

Although we all know how drinking large quantities of alcohol can affect driving ability, from impairing coordination to decreasing the ability to multitask, there is little known about how low doses of alcohol can affect people while driving. Studies such as this one show that more attention needs to be paid to the potential effects of ‘just one or two’ drinks.

With the National Transportation Safety Board recommending all 50 states lower the legal limit from .08 to .05, studies such as this may give local jurisdictions the motivation to move ahead with the change and strengthen impaired driving laws. At the very least, this research may bring to light the need to stagger legal blood alcohol limits according to age.