Is There More Substance and Poly-Drug Abuse with Older Drivers?

Steering wheel of car, details of buttons and adjustment controls

Did you know about Older Driver Safety Awareness Week? From December 3 to December 7, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) raises awareness for older drivers and the dangers they face on the road. Although the theme is to highlight older driver safety, there is something else that needs to be addressed that’s affecting our roads.

Substance Abuse and Older Drivers

One danger that’s slowly increasing is older drivers using prescription drugs while behind the wheel. Research is showing that substance use is an emerging public health issue among older adults. In addition, more than 75 percent of drivers age 65 or older report using one or more medications. However, less than one-third acknowledged the potential impact of the medications on driving performance.

There is an unfortunate number of older adults who may be at risk for prescription drug misuse and/or hazardous drinking in the U.S. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the number of older Americans with substance abuse disorder is expected to rise from 2.8 million in 2002 to 2006 to 5.7 million by 2020.

On top of substance abuse, there is a rising number that’s expanding to all age groups with poly-drug use in the U.S. that includes alcohol. But if older drivers mix prescription medication with alcohol, it will be an even more dangerous situation for themselves and other drivers.

Mixing Drugs and Alcohol While Driving

Poly-drug use is more common than we think in the U.S., and a good number of poly-drug cases involve drugs and alcohol. That’s why Ignition Interlocks are important as a part of the effort to curb impaired driving. Older adults can take steps to be safer on the roads, and one of them is an Ignition Interlock. A voluntary Ignition Interlock program can assist anyone, no matter what age, by providing the accountability to not drive drunk.

Let’s do our part to pay attention to our loved ones and make sure everyone drives safely. The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) provides additional tips and resources for Older Driver Safety Awareness Week on their website.

If you do need to use an Ignition Interlock, Smart Start can help. Schedule your installation appointment by calling (800) 831-3299 or by filling out our online form.