, Volume 231, Issue 3, pp 557–566 | Cite as

Interactions between age and moderate alcohol effects on simulated driving performance

  • Alfredo L. SklarEmail author
  • Jeff Boissoneault
  • Mark T. Fillmore
  • Sara Jo Nixon
Original Investigation



There is a substantial body of literature documenting the deleterious effects of both alcohol consumption and age on driving performance. There is, however, limited work examining the interaction of age and acute alcohol consumption.


The current study was conducted to determine if moderate alcohol doses differentially affect the driving performance of older and younger adults.


Healthy older (55–70) and younger (25–35) adults were tested during a baseline session and again following consumption of one of three beverages [0.0 % (placebo), 0.04 % or 0.065 % target breath alcohol concentration]. Measures of driving precision and average speed were recorded.


Older adults performed more poorly on precision driving measures and drove more slowly than younger adults at baseline. After controlling for baseline performance, interactions between alcohol and age were observed following beverage consumption on two measures of driving precision with older adults exhibiting greater impairment as a result of alcohol consumption.


These data provide evidence that older adults may be more susceptible to the effects of alcohol on certain measures of driving performance. An investigation of mechanisms accounting for alcohol’s effects on driving in older and younger adults is required. Further evaluation using more complex driving environments is needed to assess the real-world implication of this interaction.


Moderate alcohol consumption Aging Simulated driving 



Support for this project was provided by R01AA019802 (S.J. Nixon, PI); F30AA021315 (A.L. Sklar, PI; S.J. Nixon, Sponsor); F31AA0919862 (J. Boissoneault, PI; S.J. Nixon, Sponsor).

Conflict of interest



  1. Allen AJ, Meda SA, Skudlarski P, Calhoun VD, Astur R, Ruopp KC, Pearlson GD (2009) Effects of alcohol on performance on a distraction task during simulated driving. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 33(4):617–625PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Balsa AI, Homer JF, Fleming MF, French MT (2008) Alcohol consumption and health among elders. Gerontologist 48(5):622–636PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beck AT, Steer RA, Brown GK (1996) Beck depression inventory, 2nd edn. The Psychological Corporation, San AntonioGoogle Scholar
  4. Benedict RHB, Schretlen D, Groninger L, Brandt J (1998) Hopkins verbal learning test-revised: normative data and analysis of inter-form and test–retest reliability. Clin Neuropsychol 12(1):43–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beirness D, Vogel-Sprott M (1984) The development of alcohol tolerance: acute recovery as a predictor. Psychopharmacology 84:398–401PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Blomberg RD, Peck RC, Moskowitz H, Burns M, Fiorentino D (2005) Crash risk of alcohol involved driving: a case–control study. Dunlap and Associates, StamfordGoogle Scholar
  7. Borkenstein RF, Crowther RF, Shumate RP, Zylman R (1974) The role of the drinking driver in traffic accidents (the Grand Rapids Study). Blutalcohol 11:s7–s13Google Scholar
  8. Bunce D, Young MS, Blane A, Khugputh P (2012) Age and inconsistency in driving performance. Accid Anal Prev 49:293–299PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Burian SE, Liguori A, Robinson JH (2002) Effects of alcohol on risk-taking during simulated driving. Hum Psychopharmacol 17(3):141–150PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cahalan D, Cissin L, Crossley H (1969) American drinking practices: a national study of drinking behaviors and attitudes (monograph no. 6). Rutgers Center of Alcohol Studies, New Brunswick, NJGoogle Scholar
  11. Chaparro A, Wood JM, Carberry T (2005) Effects of age and auditory and visual dual tasks on closed-road driving performance. Optom Vis Sci 82(8):747–754PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Djousse L, Lee IM, Buring JE, Gaziano JM (2009) Alcohol consumption and risk of cardiovasular disease and death in women: potential mediated mechanisms. Circulation 120:237–244PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Durazzo TC, Rothlind JC, Gazdzinski S, Banys P, Meyerhoff DJ (2007) Chronic smoking is associated with differential neurocognitive recovery in abstinent alcoholic patients: a preliminary investigation. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 31(7):1114–1127PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fillmore MT, Blackburn JS, Harrison EL (2008) Acute disinhibiting effects of alcohol as a factor in risky driving behavior. Drug Alcohol Depend 95(1–2):97–106PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fillmore MT, Vogel-Sprott M (1998) Behavioral impairmen under alcohol: cognitive and pharmacokinetic factors. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 22(7):1476–1482PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Folstein MF, Folstein SE, McHugh PR (1975) Mini-mental state: a practical method for grading the cognitive state of patients for the clinician. J Psychiat Res 12:189–198PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gilbertson R, Ceballos NA, Prather R, Nixon SJ (2009) Effects of acute alcohol consumption in older and younger adults: perceived impairment versus psychomotor performance. J Stud Alcohol Drugs 70(2):242–252PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Harrison EL, Fillmore MT (2005) Are bad drivers more impaired by alcohol? Sober driving precision predicts impairment from alcohol in a simulated driving task. Accid Anal Prev 37(5):882–889PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Harrison EL, Fillmore MT (2011) Alcohol and distraction interact to impair driving performance. Drug Alcohol Depend 117(1):31–37PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Howard ME, Jackson ML, Kennedy GA, Swann P, Barnes M, Pierce RJ (2007) The interactive effects of extended wakefulness and low-dose alcohol on simulated diving and vigilance. Sleep 30(10):1334–1340PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Lavalliere M, Laurendeau D, Simoneau M, Teasdale N (2011) Changing lanes in a simulator: effects of aging on the control of the vehicle and visual inspection of mirrors and blind spot. Traffic Inj Prev 12(2):191–200PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Leung S, Starmer G (2005) Gap acceptance and risk-taking by young and mature drivers, both sober and alcohol-intoxicated, in a simulated driving task. Accid Anal Prev 37(6):1056–1065PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lew HL, Poole JH, Lee EH, Jaffe DL, Huang HC, Brodd E (2005) Predictive validity of driving-simulator assessments following traumatic brain injury: a preliminary study. Brain Injury 19(3):177–188PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lewis B, Boissoneault J, Gilbertson R, Prather R, Nixon SJ (2013) Neurophysiological correlates of moderate alcohol consumption in older and younger social drinkers. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 37(6):941–951. doi: 10.1111/acer.12055 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Mets MA, Kuipers E, Senerpont Domis LM, Leenders M, Olivier B, Verster JC (2011) Effects of alcohol on highway driving in the STISIM driving simulator. Hum Psychopharmacol Clin Exp 26:434–439Google Scholar
  26. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) (2012) Traffic safety facts 2010; Alcohol, DOT HS 811 606. U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  27. Peck RC, Gebers MA, Voas RB, Romano E (2008) The relationship between blood alcohol concentration (BAC), age, and crash risk. J Safety Res 39(3):311–319PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Phillips DP, Brewer KM (2011) The relationship between serious injury and blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in fatal motor vehicle accidents: BAC = 0.01% is associated with significantly more dangerous accidents than BAC = 0.00%. Addiction 106:1614–1622PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Quillian WC, Cox DJ, Kovatchev BP, Phillips C (1999) The effects of age and alcohol intoxication on simulated driving performance, awareness and self-restraint. Age Ageing 28(1):59–66PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Reimer B, Mehler B, Son J, Pohlmeyer E, Orszulak J, Long J, Coughlin J (2009) A cross-cultural comparison of younger and older adults’ simulated highway driving performance under single and dual task conditions. Proc 5th Int Symp Human Factors in Driver Assessment, Training and Vehicle Design, Big Sky, MT, pp 206–213Google Scholar
  31. Reitan RM, Wolfson D (1986) The Halstead–Reitan neuropsychological test battery. In: Wedding D, Horton AM (eds) The neuropsychology handbook: behavioral and clinical perspectives. Springer, New York, pp 134–160Google Scholar
  32. Robins LN, Cottler L, Bucholz KK, Compton W (1995) The diagnostic interview schedule, version IV. Washington University, St. LouisGoogle Scholar
  33. Schweizer TA, Vogel-Sprott M, Danckert J, Roy EA, Skakum A, Broderick CE (2005) Neuropsychological profile of acute alcohol intoxication during ascending and descending blood alcohol concentrations. Neuropsychopharmacology 31:1301–1309Google Scholar
  34. Schweizer TA, Jolicoeur P, Vogel-Sprott M, Dixon MJ (2004) Fast, but error-prone, responses during acute alcohol intoxication: effects of stimulus–response mapping complexity. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 28(4):643–649PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Shanmugaratnam S, Kass SJ, Arruda JE (2010) Age differences in cognitive and psychomotor abilities and simulated driving. Accid Anal Prev 42:802–808PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Shechtman O, Classen S, Awadzi K, Mann W (2009) Comparison of driving errors between on-the-road and simulated driving assessment: a validation study. Traffic Inj Prev 10:379–385PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Sklar AL, Gilbertson R, Boissoneault J, Prather R, Nixon SJ (2012) Differential effects of moderate alcohol consumption on performance among older and younger adults [Epub ahead of print]. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 36(12):2150–2056. doi: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2012.01833.x PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Spielberger CD (1983) Manual for state-trait anxiety inventory. Consulting Psychologists Press, Palo AltoGoogle Scholar
  39. Strauss E, Sherman EMS, Spreen O (2006) A compendium of neuropsychological tests: administration, norms and commentary, 3rd edn. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  40. Tolentino NJ, Wierenga CE, Hall S, Tapert SF, Paulus MP, Liu TT, Smith TL, Schuckit MA (2011) Alcohol effects on cerebral blood flow in subjects with low and high responses to alcohol. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 35(6):1034–1040PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Tupler LA, Hege S, Ellinwood EH Jr (1995) Alcohol pharmacodynamics in young-elderly adults contrasted with young and middle-aged subjects. Psychopharmacology 118(4):460–470PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. United States Department of Agriculture, and United States Department of Health and Human Services (USDA/USDHHS) (2010) Dietary guidelines for Americans, 7th edn. U.S. Government Printing Office, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  43. Watson PE, Watson ID, Batt RD (1981) Prediction of blood alcohol concentrations in human subjects. Updating the Widmark equation. J Stud Alcohol 42(7):547–556PubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Weafer J, Camarillo D, Fillmore MT, Milich R, Marczinski CA (2008) Simulated driving performance of adults with ADHD: comparisons with alcohol intoxication. Exp Clin Psychopharmacol 16(3):251–263PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Weafer J, Fillmore MT (2012) Acute tolerance to alcohol impairment of behavioral and cognitive mechanisms related to driving: drinking and driving on the descending limb. Psychopharmacology 220(4):697–706PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. West R, Wilding J, French D, Kemp R, Irving A (1993) Effects of low and moderate doses of alcohol on driving hazard perception latency and driving speed. Addiction 88:527–532PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Yan X, Radwan E, Guo D (2007) Effects of major-road vehicle speed and driver age and gender on left-turn gap acceptance. Accid Anal Prev 39:843–852PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Yesavage JA, Brink TL, Rose TL, Lum O, Huang V, Adey M, Leirer VO (1982) Development and validation of a geriatric depression screening scale: a preliminary report. J Psychiatr Res 17(1):37–49PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Zaloshnja E, Miller TR (2009) Cost of crashes related to road conditions, United States, 2006. Ann Adv Automot Med 53:141–153PubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alfredo L. Sklar
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jeff Boissoneault
    • 1
  • Mark T. Fillmore
    • 2
  • Sara Jo Nixon
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA

Personalised recommendations