Archive for March, 2014

Sleeping Pills a Driving Risk for Elderly Motorists

In the past decade, the number of seniors with a driver’s license has increased 23 percent. Each day, there are 500 accidents involving senior drivers, many of which result from the impaired cognitive function and vision that go along with old age. Seniors over the age of 80 are at the greatest danger of a motor vehicle collision, although seniors begin to decline at different rates. 

Although age-related impairments make many seniors dangerous drivers, seniors are much less likely than younger people to consume alcohol before they drive. In fact, data shows only five percent of senior drivers have a blood-alcohol content above the legal limit at the time of a collision.

Unfortunately, while seniors might not be drunk, they may be on medication that affects their ability to drive safely. In fact, recent evidence indicates a growing trend of sleeping pill use among older Americans. Sleeping pills can increase the risk of collisions for drivers of all ages, but people over the age of 80 are especially at risk of side effects from these medications. This is especially a problem in the state of Florida, where 18.2 percent of the population is 65 and older as compared with a national average of 13.7 percent.

Victims of collisions with senior drivers on sleeping pills need to understand their rights and should contact an experienced West Palm Beach accident attorney.

Sleeping Pills and Senior Drivers 

Seniors, for the most part, should not be taking sleeping pills. For people over the age of 80, sleeping pills reportedly  increase the risk of fatigue during the daytime and the risk of cognitive impairment.

Unfortunately, sleeping pills are frequently prescribed to elderly individuals who suffer from either physical or mental problems that affect sleep, such as arthritis. As many as five percent of people over the age of 80 take some type of prescription sleep aid. For many seniors, these medications may react with other drugs they are taking for other conditions. For example, 10 percent of participants in a recent study were taking three or more medications that had a sedating effect, including opioid pain killers which may be prescribed to people suffering from osteoarthritis.

Seniors who are taking multiple drugs should think carefully before driving to ensure that it is safe for them to do so. Families with older relatives should also stay involved, finding out what types of pills are being prescribed and taking steps to ensure that a senior is still able to drive. Roadwise RX is a program that allows you to enter your medications and to learn how the medications affect driving abilities.

Although sleeping pills are legal, individuals of all ages who do take sleeping pills could potentially be charged with the crime of impaired driving if the medications affect their ability to operate their vehicles safely. Just recently, for example, Kerry Kennedy faced criminal charges for causing a collision when sleeping pills affected her ability to drive. She reported that she had taken the medication by mistake, and was acquitted of the criminal charges.

A West Palm Beach accident attorney can help accident victims. Call Gonzalez & Cartwright, P.A. today at 800-608-2965 to schedule a free consultation

Archive for March, 2014

Palm Beach DUI Risks Remain Top Concern in 2014

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is continuing efforts in 2014 to encourage lawmakers to adopt regulations that could reduce drunk driving incidents. Florida has adopted the majority of the recommended laws but MADD’s 2014 Report to the Nation indicates that the state could do more. 

Drunk driving fatalities represented 29 percent of total traffic deaths in Florida in 2012, with 697 people losing their lives in collisions involving alcohol. This was a .4 percent increase from the prior year. Family members of victims who are killed have legal rights, as do victims hurt in a collision with an intoxicated motorist. A drunk driving attorney in West Palm Beach can help victims of drunk driving collisions. Contact Gonzalez & Cartwright, P.A.,  today to schedule your free consultation.

Florida Can Take Steps to Combat Drunk Driving

Florida takes a tough stance on drunk driving and many regulations aim to discourage drivers from getting behind the wheel after consuming alcohol. For example, Florida allows for sobriety checkpoints and has a no refusal policy so drivers suspected of being impaired cannot decline to have their blood-alcohol content (BAC) tested without automatically losing their driver’s license. Child endangerment laws impose stricter penalties on drivers who are impaired with young people in the car and administrative license suspension (ALS) also occurs after a drunk driving arrest or refusal to submit to a BAC test.    Each of these laws has earned Florida a star for following MADD recommendations, giving the state four stars out of five.

Unfortunately, despite its tough laws, there are still hundreds of drunk drivers on the streets in Florida annually. MADD reports that:

  • 12,016 people were hurt in alcohol-related crashes in Florida in 2012.
  • A total of 17,199 Florida crashes involving alcohol occurred in 2012.
  • There were 53,664 arrests and 28,689 convictions of intoxicated motorists in Florida over the course of 2012.
  • A total of 18,268 drivers refused to take a blood alcohol content test over the course of the same year.
  • There were 113,076 three-time offenders and 11,681 five-time offenders in the state of Florida.

It is not uncommon for impaired motorists to drive drunk repeatedly, even after they have been caught and arrested. Florida could thus significantly improve its safety efforts by making one simple change: requiring ignition interlock devices (IIDs) for every offender convicted of driving drunk.

Lawmakers passed a law in 2008 that required the use of ignition interlock devices for first time offenders if they had a BAC above .15, but motorists convicted who were just over the .08 legal limit do not have to have one of these devices installed when they resume driving.   Drunk driving could be significantly reduced if all offenders had to use an IID, since there were more than 20,000 repeat DUI offenders arrested in Florida in 2010 who were driving on a suspended license.

Drunk driving not only has a devastating cost for victims, but it also has a huge financial cost as well.  The comprehensive economic cost of a drunk driving death is $5.2 million.  Florida lawmakers could save money and lives by following MADD’s recommendations and imposing an IID requirement for all convicted drunk driving offenders.

A drunk driving accident attorney in West Palm Beach can help accident victims. Call Gonzalez & Cartwright, P.A., today at 800-608-2965 or visit www.gonzalezcartwright.com  to schedule a free consultation.