How old is too old when it comes to driving?
Of course, there’s no clear answer to that question. Plenty of drivers stay sharp into their 70s or even 80s, while others choose to give up their keys much earlier. But there is one fact that is crystal clear: senior citizens who drink and drive are a serious danger on our roads, perhaps even more than younger offenders who operate vehicles while intoxicated.
According to the NHTSA, over 11,000 people died in alcohol-involved traffic accidents in 2020. That’s a 14% increase from the year before, made even more remarkable because traffic during that first pandemic year actually decreased by 13.2%.
Additionally, while drinking is increasing in every age group, older Americans are increasingly exhibiting problem drinking. In fact, there may be some 2.5 million seniors struggling with a drug or alcohol problem in the U.S.—and the number of detox and rehab facilities designed for older folks is growing exponentially in response.
The increase in seniors with substance abuse problems is so large partly because the elderly population is growing quickly as the Baby Boomers turn 65. There are simply more in this age group than other generations.
That said, older folks may be at additional risk for impairment. For starters, they metabolize substances more slowly. Drinking alcohol can cause an interaction with certain prescription medications, leaving them in worse shape than they may realize. And their spatial reasoning, reaction time, hearing, and eyesight—all essential for safe driving—tend to be less sharp than their younger counterparts.
Each day in the United States, more than 20 older adults are killed, and almost 700 are injured in crashes. That doesn’t necessarily mean that senior drivers are generally unsafe or that you should take your car off the road. That’s a decision you should make with your doctor and loved ones.
Regardless of any statistics, it’s essential that you follow safe driving protocols—at every age, but perhaps particularly now. Don’t drive after drinking, taking recreational drugs, or taking new prescription medications. If in doubt, let someone else take the wheel.
Have you been arrested on suspicion of a DUI? We’re sensitive to the needs and special circumstances of older Americans in this situation. Contact Razumich & Associates for compassionate, judgment-free assistance in this difficult time. Call us at 317-983-5333.