Skip to content

50+: Live Better, Longer

Older Drivers May Be Vulnerable to Just One Drink

But that doesn't mean it's safe for younger drivers to consume any alcohol, researchers say
Font Size
A
A
A

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Mary Brophy Marcus

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, March 20, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Even a single glass of wine, bottle of beer or mixed drink might impair driving ability in people over the age of 55, new research suggests.

A small study by University of Florida scientists looked at how one serving of alcohol affected the driving skills of a group of 72 healthy people. Half ranged in age from 25 to 36 and the other half were between the ages of 55 and 70.

Downing a single alcoholic beverage did not raise any of the participants' blood alcohol levels over 0.08 -- the legal limit for driving. But it was enough to impair the driving skills of the older drivers, the study authors said in a recent issue of the journal Psychopharmacology.

"This study suggests that even low alcohol doses, producing alcohol levels below the current legal limit, can compromise some basic driving skills among older adults," said study co-author Alfredo Sklar, a doctoral candidate at the Center for Addiction Research and Education at the University of Florida College of Medicine.

At the start of the study, both age groups were asked to take a simulated driving test while sober along a 3-mile stretch of winding country road. The set-up for the driving test included several computers with large monitors in front and at the sides of the drivers to give the impression of side windows of a car. The driving console included a steering wheel, brake and gas pedal, and ambient sounds were pumped in via a stereo system. To add a touch of realism, occasionally another car passed.

The researchers tracked the drivers' ability to stay in their lane and maintain a constant speed, as well as their steering wheel use while traveling along the road.

On another day, the participants were divided into three groups. One group drank a lemon-lime nonalcoholic beverage, the second group drank an alcoholic beverage that produced a breath-test reading of 0.04 percent and the third group consumed an alcoholic beverage that raised the breath test to 0.065 percent. Neither of the alcoholic drinks caused the participants to hit the 0.08 percent legal limit, the researchers said.

Today on WebMD

blueberries
Eating for a longer, healthier life.
romantic couple
Dr. Ruth’s bedroom tips for long-term couples.
 
womans finger tied with string
Learn how we remember, and why we forget.
man reviewing building plans
Do you know how to stay healthy as you age?
 
fast healthy snack ideas
Article
how healthy is your mouth
Tool
 
dog on couch
Tool
doctor holding syringe
Slideshow
 
champagne toast
Slideshow
Two women wearing white leotards back to back
Quiz
 
Man feeding woman
Slideshow
two senior women laughing
Article