22 April 2019

Millions of Older People (55 and over) Are Drinking and Driving

a photo of a bartender pouring alcohol into glasses
Research by Direct Line Motor Insurance has revealed that 1.6 million older people, aged 55 and over, admit to drinking and driving. A further 3.6 million older drivers say they may have driven over the alcohol limit.

In this blog, we’ll look at five of the common myths about drinking and driving amongst older people. With increasing numbers of Brits affected by alcohol addiction and receiving alcohol treatment, how many are failing breathalyser tests and having accidents on the road?

If you’re over 55 and your drinking is putting you or other people at risk, please call UKAT for a confidential alcohol assessment. If you can’t stop drinking and driving, it’s a sign of alcohol dependence. UKAT offers fast access to alcohol detox and rehab treatment, in affordable and luxury centres nationwide.

5 Myths about Drinking and Driving amongst Older People

Over the past 15 years, the “baby-boomer” generation have shown the highest increase in alcohol and drug misuse. In 2017-18, 17,408 alcohol-only treatment clients were 55 or over – that’s 23% of the alcohol-only treatment population.

With greater numbers of older people now drinking too much and getting addicted, how is this playing out on Britain’s roads? Direct Line’s research shows that driving while intoxicated amongst this age group is commonplace, often underpinned by myths and misinformation.

Myth 1: Older people are safer drivers, so they’re more reliable on the road, even after drinking

Over half a million people, aged 55 and over, believe that older drivers are safer on the road, so they pose less risk even if they drink and drive.

26% of all road accidents in 2017 involved older drivers. That’s 45,500 accidents (125 accidents every day).

Myth 2: It’s only a short journey, so it’s not so risky to drink and drive

According to the Direct Line Research, 1.2 million people in this age group admit to drinking and driving over short distances.

By downplaying the risks of short journeys, however, people can normalise drinking and driving. Short trips after drinking become a regular habit, putting road users and pedestrians in danger on multiple occasions.

Myth 3: A large meal soaks up alcohol and makes it safer to drive

Over one million people, aged 55+, believe that eating a big meal before driving reduces the effects of drinking alcohol.

It’s true that drinking alcohol on an empty stomach can speed up the rate of alcohol absorption – but your driving can still be unsafe if you drink alcohol with food.

As an older person, you won’t metabolise alcohol as efficiently as younger people. Eating a large meal just before driving can increase tiredness too.

Myth 4: Men are safer to drink and drive than women

More than one million older drivers believe that men can drink more than women and still be safe to drive.

a photo of a woman drinking white wine from a glass
The biological gender is just one of many factors involved in how alcohol affects individuals – including changes to their reaction times, judgment and vision. Genetics, weight, prescription medication use, recreational drug use, levels of dehydration and other illnesses also play their part in how alcohol affects the body and mind.

When older people take strong prescription medications, including opiate-based painkillers or anti-depressants, the combination of drugs and alcohol can be very unpredictable. There’s a higher risk of alcohol-induced blackouts (memory loss), when alcohol and drugs, both prescribed and illicit, are mixed.

Myth 5: If you don’t feel drunk, it’s safe to drive

A decision to drive based on how you feel after drinking isn’t an accurate measure of your ability to drive safely. The effects of alcohol may feel very different when sitting at home, in a pub or a restaurant, than when you’re making split-second decisions behind the wheel.

Subtle changes to vision, including impaired night vision or peripheral vision, can make the difference between getting home safely and having a crash.

Data released by the Department for Transport statistics show that 15.3% of over-50s in England fail roadside breathalyser tests. Additionally, 750,000 older motorists said they might have been over the alcohol limit when driving the morning after drinking.

Drinking and Driving – A Sign of Alcohol Dependence

When people get addicted to alcohol, drinking takes priority over other activities and responsibilities in life. Addiction is a progressive disease – so typically the symptoms and consequences of alcohol misuse get worse over time.

As addiction takes hold, it’s common for addicts to justify actions or decisions that may have once been unacceptable to them. Drinking and driving is an example of this – where consuming alcohol becomes more important than driving safely and legally.

Buying into myths around alcohol and driving is a way of justifying drinking – even when it’s illegal to do so. It’s essential for alcohol addicts to understand these kinds of thought processes which play a crucial role in how addiction develops and progresses.

a photo of hand showing that the person wants no more drinks
If you’re alcohol-dependent, you’re also likely to experience increasing loss of control over your actions. Many alcohol addicts try to convince themselves that they’ll only have one drink when they’re driving, thus staying within legal limits – but then they find themselves behind the wheel after drinking too much.

Some recovering addicts describe this as loss of their will power in active addiction; others see this is how alcohol affects their decision-making and attitudes to risk. Either way, it’s a sign of dependence on alcohol.

If you’re worried about how much alcohol you drink – or a relative is drinking to dangerous levels – UKAT can advise you on detox and rehab programmes. Our purpose is to provide excellent care and treatment to enable all those suffering from addictive disorders to achieve lifelong recovery. Get in touch with UKAT today to start your recovery process.

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