Florida study shows one drink can impair older drivers

March 27, 2014

Could it be possible that a person in Tampa could be driving while impaired by alcohol, even if his or her blood alcohol level is within Florida's legal limits? According to a recent study at the University of Florida in Gainesville, the answer may be a shocking "yes," for drivers 55 and older.This study, which was published in the journal Psychopharmacology, indicates that alcohol may not affect all drivers equally. The study, which involved drivers from north central Florida, used driving simulators to test participants' responses to distracting stimuli before and after an alcoholic drink. They drove down a virtual three-mile country road, with occasional distractions like oncoming cars. The study consisted of 36 people between age 25 and 35, and an equal number of participants age 55 to 70. Each group performed the test twice: once while sober, and once after the drink. While no participants consumed enough alcohol to push them over the 0.08 legal limit, one drink appeared to affect driving skills in the older group. Some of the driving skills evaluated by the study were their ability to stay within their lane, maintain speed and correct their steering quickly. While these simulations have been used to measure how alcohol affects younger adults, this is the first time they have been used to compare alcohol's effect on older and younger drivers. Someone injured by a drunk driver doesn't care whether the driver who hit them was 25 or 65, or whether they believed they were intoxicated or not. Drunk driving accidents can result in serious injuries, property damage, pain and suffering, and even loss of life. While Florida's standards of legal alcohol consumption are fixed regardless of a person's age, this study may hopefully begin a dialogue in the law enforcement community about the relativity of alcohol thresholds in various populations and situations.It may not be a politically correct topic, but alcohol does affect people differently. Size and weight, medications, accompanying psychological or medical conditions and now even age, may be mitigating factors that determine intoxication regardless of blood alcohol level. While these may be challenging and sensitive issues to argue in court, a personal injury attorney may be able to take them into account and present them for consideration. This study may help some Tampa area accident victims demonstrate that alcohol could have played a role in their injuries. Source: Tampa Bay Times, "A single drink can affect senior drivers, study shows" Fred W. Wright Jr., Mar. 19, 2014

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