Virtually everyone who gets a driver's license today knows that the use of alcohol and many medications can make driving unsafe and illegal. However, that has not always been true. Given how rarely some states require new driving or written tests to renew a driver's license, many senior citizens could break the law on a regular basis and never realize it. The increased independence and longer lives that many senior citizens enjoy can lead to some older people driving after consuming medication. That obviously can result in car accidents, injuries, death, fines and criminal charges, so it's important to talk with the older adults in your life about safe driving and their use of medication.
Why Are Senior Citizens Likely To Drive Under The Influence?
In 1910 New York established the first laws against drinking and driving, but that law essentially said don't get behind the wheel when you are drunk. It did not define what being drunk actually consisted of. In 1938, the majority of states considered 0.15 percent as the legal definition of intoxicated driving and by 2000, the legal limit had dropped to .08 in all states.
That is important because many parents and grandparents today learned to drive at a time when driving under the influence was not as big of a deal and being legally intoxicated required a much higher blood alcohol level. In addition, elderly drivers may not be aware that some medications can slow their response time and that combining over-the-counter medications with prescriptions and even small amounts of alcohol can exacerbate the side effects of both.
How Bad Is The Problem?
The Center for Disease Control, or CDC, has reported that just 7% of older drivers that experienced fatal crashes were legally intoxicated at the time. Although lower than other ages, 7% is too high. In addition, depression is a common problem for many older people and can lead to the consumption of alcohol.
9% of people over the age of 65 that receive Medicare drink more than 30 drinks a month and drink four or more drinks in one sitting. Unfortunately, if senior citizens live alone or do not have help to run errands, driving under the influence can be more likely.
What Can You Do?
If you are concerned about your loved one taking medication before driving or you don't know how safe it would be for the older person in your life to take their medication with alcohol, it is important to talk with the doctor and pharmacist about it. You can also make sure that there is not a comparable medicine that will not impair their driving skills and see if it is okay to take the medication in question only before bed. For instance, even allergy medications that are available over-the-counter can make it unsafe to drive, so it may be time to switch to a newer drug that does not cause impair reactions.
If those ideas do not help, you can also designate one daily pill reminder container for medications that will limit driving and another unit for pills that are safe to use before getting behind the wheel. Even if their memory is no longer perfect, that could be an easy way to remind them.
In conclusion, driving under the influence, or DUI, is not just a problem for younger adults and teenagers. Senior citizens who use alcohol or certain medications are responsible for many accidents each year and it is important to talk with the older people in your life about how you can prevent more incidents from occurring. Talk to an attorney, such as at Boehmer Law, to get more information.