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At what point is a person really too drunk to drive safely?

The blood-alcohol content limit for all drivers over the age of 21 is .08 percent in Florida. This generally means that if a breath or blood alcohol test shows that a driver's BAC is .07 or below, he or she should not be charged with driving under the influence.

The .08 limit is controversial for many reasons. There are those who believe that people are too drunk to drive even when their BAC is as low as .05 percent, and there are others who think that it is perfectly safe to drive with a BAC of .08 percent or even higher. Of course, individuals may handle alcohol differently from one another, but nonetheless we are all held to the same legal standard in Florida.

A recent study suggests that older Florida drivers might feel the effects of alcohol more so than younger people. The study was performed by University of Florida scientists who found that those over the age of 55 can become impaired upon having just one drink.

The researchers noted that the blood-alcohol content of those over 55 did not increase past the legal limit after one drink, but they showed distinct signs of impairment that would limit their driving skills.

The researchers compared how those ages 55 to 70 compared to those ages 25 to 36 when driving on a simulator after having a drink. The study's participants consumed only enough alcohol to raise their blood-alcohol levels to .04 or .065 percent.

The younger drivers reportedly were proven to drive just fine after having less than one drink, but the older drivers lost precision behind the wheel.

This study is a reminder that alcohol affects individuals differently, and not only based on age. Weight, sex and a number of other factors can have an impact on the way a person metabolizes alcohol and feels the effects. It is important for Florida residents to know their limits and to avoid driving drunk. Those who do find themselves facing DUI charges need to be aware that the state takes drunk driving very seriously and it can be vital to seek criminal defense counsel.

Source: CBS, "Older drivers may be impaired after just one drink," Mary Brophy Marcus, March 21, 2014

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