Americans are living longer than ever before, which means that many are driving well into their senior years. Seniors who drive participate in more activities, which is beneficial to their health. Driving can also help aging individuals maintain strong cognitive abilities. Why is it then that some elderly drivers who have maintained a safe driving record for decades get flagged for DUI?
Unfortunately, as we age, our bodies undergo vast changes. A glass of wine with dinner that may not have affected a driver’s sharpness behind the wheel at 30 can pose a threat at 70. The more sensitive a person becomes to alcohol as he or she ages, the more likely it is that he or she will be stopped and investigated for DUI.
Senior Driving Statistics
While many older drivers practice safe driving, they unintentionally make up a large portion of those who wind up in emergency rooms after an accident. According to the CDC, an estimated 7,400 adults 65+ were killed and more than 290,000 treated in emergency departments for motor vehicle crash injuries in 2016. When broken down, this equates to 20 older adults killed and 794 injured per day.
The AAA Foundation found that, while drivers between 16 and 17 have the highest rate of crash involvement, injuries to themselves and others, and deaths of others, drivers who are 80 or older have the highest rate of driver deaths. Clearly, aging impacts our driving abilities, and throwing alcohol in the mix doesn’t make anyone safer.
Things that Change with Age
Many older adults suffer from various conditions that take a toll on their bodies and affect driving. Some of the most common changes that affect safe driving are:
- Stiff muscles and joints
- Hearing loss
- Vision impairment
- Increased reaction time
- Slower mental processes
- Taking more medications
Those with arthritis experience stiff muscles and joints that can make it difficult to maneuver a vehicle and react quickly to traffic. Seeing and hearing are two senses that take a hit during aging. Without strong vision and hearing abilities, seniors can miss important cues on the road. This can be exacerbated by having alcohol in the body. Reaction time also increases with age due to the loss of brain connections.
Seniors who take multiple medications may experience the same effect as if they were driving under the influence. Those who take medications and drink may fare worse behind the wheel.
As our bodies age, we metabolize alcohol more slowly for the following reasons:
- Carrying less water in our bodies means the alcohol we consume becomes more concentrated.
- We become more sensitive to and less tolerant of alcohol.
- Our gastrointestinal tract is less capable of metabolizing alcohol, so more of it enters the blood.
Thus, seniors can become visibly impaired by imbibing less alcohol than younger adults.
DUI Defense Lawyer Defends Seniors in West Palm Beach
If you are a senior citizen who has never broken the law and are suddenly facing DUI charges, you deserve quality legal representation. Don’t let a DUI stain your reputation. Seek intelligent and resourceful representation from an attorney who will devote personal attention to your case.
Attorney Brian Gabriel of The Law Office of Gabriel & Gabriel has worked with senior citizens throughout Palm Beach County to help them navigate the criminal justice system. His legal practice in West Palm Beach places a strong focus on DUI defense. As a former prosecutor, he understands what it takes to achieve the best outcome.
Tell us a bit about your case when you complete our contact form or call 561-622-5575. We provide free consultations.