Massachusetts Car Accidents More Likely for Drinkers 55 & Older

Rick James & Eddie Murphy used to have a hit song in the mid-1980’s called “Party All The Time.” Sometimes, I think it was written for the lifestyle I used to live in my 20’s. I remember backpacking through Europe one summer in my 20’s, and my friend and I would drink all night, sleep for 5 or 6 hours, get up and hike all day with a full backpack – no problem. But I’m not in my 20’s anymore, and I’ve known for a long time that I can’t drink and party the way I used to (in fact, those skills left a long time ago.)

The problem is, a lot of drivers who have “graduated,” shall we say, from those earlier days, don’t quite get that they can’t drink like they used to, and still drive responsibly. Too many people think that unless they feel a definite buzz, or feel “drunk,” they’re okay to drive. Not true, at all. In fact, it’s been shown that if you’re a driver who’s 55 years of age or older, a single glass of wine can render you a dangerous driver. No six packs needed.

A study published in the journal Psychopharmacology a couple of weeks ago, pointed out that for people aged 55 and older, the effects of even minor amounts of alcohol are drastically different from what they are for younger drinkers.

Sara Jo Nixon, Ph.D., who is a professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Florida, along with her doctoral candidate Alfredo Sklar compared how drinking even legally non-intoxicating levels of alcohol, differently impacts the driving skills of two age groups: Drivers age 25 to 35 and drivers age 55 to 70. The study showed that even though neither age group drank enough alcohol to put them over the legal driving limit, (blood alcohol level of 0.08,) even one drink impacted the driving skills of the 55 and older group, but not the 25 to 35 age group. The study is important because while driving studies have been conducted of older adults, and while research has looked at how alcohol impacts younger drivers, no study yet had examined the combination of older drivers and alcohol.

All this points to the obvious: Just as someone in his or her fifties can’t run and jump like they did 20 years earlier, they can’t drink like they used to, either. Literally one drink can leave a driver aged 55 or older vulnerable to causing a serious Massachusetts car accident – and the results can be devastating. As a Boston, Massachusetts car accident lawyer, I’ve seen too many different types of motor vehicle accidents than I care to remember: Massachusetts car-bike accidents; Massachusetts rear-end collisions, Massachusetts backover accidents, Massachusetts pedestrian-car accidents, Massachusetts rollover accidents, Massachusetts truck-car accidents, and Massachusetts distracted driving/cellphone accidents.

In case you think that a lot of these are “fender-bender” accidents that don’t cause much damage, you’d be wrong. Try, instead, broken necks. Broken backs, Brain damage. Burn injuries. Soft tissue injuries that never fully “heal,” leaving the victim unable to ever fully function again. The list of consequences goes on and on.

My message to Massachusetts drivers in their mid-fifties and older: If you plan on having even one drink and driving, cancel those plans: Get a designated driver, walk, or take a cab. The risk of possibly terrible consequences, isn’t worth it.