A deadly New Jersey collision involving not one, but two impaired drivers recently took the life of a hospice nurse attending to an injured pedestrian on the side of a Westfield street. The drivers, one an octogenarian and the other well into his 70s, had been imbibing separately at a local Knights of Columbus hall. After the first driver struck the nurse, the second driver collided with her yet again, causing the injuries that would later cost this mother and grandmother her life.
As this deadly accident illustrates, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is no less dangerous when it is done by elderly drivers. And, unfortunately, it appears that older Americans are responsible for their fair share of DUIs across the nation. According to data compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission, more than 10 percent of all drivers over the age of 55 involved in fatal accidents registered a blood alcohol level of .08 percent or higher, putting them over the legal limit.
Additional risk factors associated with elderly DUI
While the two intoxicated drivers in the accident above had been drinking alcohol, older drivers are also at risk for DUIs based on their use of prescription medications that may severely affect their reflexes and perception. Even when drivers have prescriptions for their medications, if their driving is impaired, they can still be arrested. With many elderly drivers requiring regimens of daily medications, they must make sure that they are not affected to such an extent that driving becomes dangerous.
Vehicular homicide, which carries penalties of up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $150,000, was the most serious charge the elderly DUI duo above faced. It was also the charge to which both pled guilty, admitting that they were driving drunk when the accident occurred. In a move that understandably angered the victim’s family, the judge in the case suspended the sentences based on the men’s lack of prior criminal records and advanced age. Leniency such as this, however, is not something on which elderly drivers should rely, as New Jersey generally takes a tough stance on DUIs at any age.
If you are facing DUI charges, put the experienced lawyers of Hoffman DiMuzio on your side.