Study suggests older drivers face impairment even when below legal BAC limit

When it comes to drinking and driving in Pennsylvania, most drivers are aware that operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of .08 is illegal and raises the risk of causing a serious accident.

But what about having one glass of wine, one bottle of beer or a single mixed drink? If you think that’s a safe choice for everyone, think again. According to CBS News, recent research suggests that just one drink of an alcoholic beverage might impair driving ability in people over 55 – even when these drivers stay within legal BAC limits. The study was conducted by University of Florida scientists to determine how one serving of alcohol affected drivers ages 25-36 and 55-70.

As part of the study, drivers across both age groups were asked to take a simulated driving test along a 3-mile stretch of winding road while sober. The driving simulator included large computer monitors that simulated the front and sides of a car, a driving console, brake and gas pedal, other vehicles, and ambient sounds. Researchers tracked the drivers’ ability to stay within their lanes, ability to maintain a constant speed, and steering wheel use along the road.

On another day, drivers were divided into three groups: one given a non-alcoholic beverage, one given an alcoholic beverage that produced a breathalyzer reading of .04 percent, and another given an alcoholic beverage that raised the breathalyzer reading to .065 percent. None of the drinks caused participants to hit the .08 legal limit, the article said.

The study found that consuming a single alcoholic beverage had a significant effect on older drivers, who exhibited “poorer precision” and “a greater sensitivity to alcohol.” Officials from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) told CBS News that it’s important for older drivers to think about what they’ve had to eat, what medication they’re taking, and how their body responds to alcohol after just a single drink.

Researchers told CBS that although younger drivers didn’t exhibit the same level of impairment as older drivers, the study used a driving simulator that was less complex than driving environments most people encounter, including unusual road conditions, traffic patterns, pedestrians, animals, and unpredictable drivers. These factors could easily heighten driving dangers among the groups involved in the study, according to researchers.

The study clearly suggests that impairment can begin after a single drink. Our Harrisburg accident attorneys know that small amounts of alcohol can impair any driver’s ability to safely share the road with others. Despite legal blood alcohol limits designed to prevent drunk driving accidents, there’s simply no safe blood alcohol content for drivers that’s higher than zero.