There is a common misconception that older people do not have to worry about DUIs because they do not drink as much alcohol as younger motorists. Unfortunately, seniors in the Fort Myers and Cape Cod areas and across the country are just as likely to receive DUI charges. They may have more driving experience and cause fewer accidents, but their age makes it easier for alcohol to remain in their bodies longer, increasing the risk of them driving while impaired.
Most seniors who consume alcohol do so in moderation. However, many of them rely on medications that produce side effects that are similar to the signs of inebriation. When they take their meds with alcohol, the effects become more pronounced. Here is a brief overview on how older people can receive DUI charges.
The effects of mixing alcohol and prescription drugs
Mixing drugs and alcohol makes it harder for older people to operate their vehicles safely. They may already have trouble with their hand-eye coordination and verbal and cognitive functions due to their health and age. Their driving actions can easily mimic those of drunk drivers when the effects of the medications they take and alcohol kick in.
How health ailments can affect field sobriety tests
Some health conditions such as auto-brewery syndrome can lead to false breathalyzer results. The effects of some medications, such as antidepressants, decongestants, sleeping aids and codeine are just a few of the many prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs that can make it hard for older drivers to perform field sobriety tests accurately and effortlessly.
For example, a senior is pulled over and asked to perform the Standardized Field Sobriety Test. They fail the walk-and-turn test because their age and health have altered their gait, making it harder for them to perform certain balance and coordination tasks without assistance. They also fail the horizontal gaze nystagmus test because their medications and age have altered their eye muscle control and movement.
Seniors who receive DUI charges often experience challenges when defending themselves. Many of them believe they can show proof of their prescriptions to have the charges dropped. However, the law does not base impairment solely on the use of alcohol. It is unlawful for anyone to operate a motor vehicle while impaired by any substance, including medications. Anyone who drives while drug side effects influence thoughts and behaviors is likely to receive a DUI.