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Prescription Cocktails and Older Drivers; Tips to Prevent Highway Tragedies


Tragedy in Denver

On July 13, 2016, on a city street in southeast Denver, 81-year-old Patricia Livingston drove her Audi A4 into two boys out for an afternoon ride on their bicycles, killing 14-year-old Cole Sukle and severely injuring his 13-year-old friend, Jack Mahoney. Cole and Jack (and a third cyclist that was not struck) were standing in the bike lane/sidewalk when they were hit.

After striking the boys, Ms. Livingston continued driving for several blocks, reportedly weaving in and out of the oncoming lane, before crashing in a nearby park. Ms. Livingston’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was found to be .135%, well above Colorado’s legal limit of .08%. Livingston, a 32-year trustee at the University of Denver, suffered injuries in the second crash and died ten days later.

One dead 14-year-old boy, one injured 13-year-old boy, and one deceased elderly driver. Sadly, these types of tragedies involving older (and younger!) drivers occur every day across America.

The purpose of this article

The purpose of this article is to discuss the role alcohol, prescription medications, the prescribing cascade and polypharmacy play in older driver safety. Our hopes are that by bringing additional awareness to these particular issues, at least one tragedy can be avoided somewhere down the road.

Not included in this article are insights on the role mental health issues, cognitive decline, medical conditions, alcoholism, sleep disorders or the use of illicit drugs play in older driver safety. Although obviously relevant and important in any highway safety discussion, these latter topics might serve us better by being addressed in a future article. It should also be noted that in no way is this article meant to be an indictment against the late Ms. Livingston.

Alcohol and the older driver