Could your prescription medicine affect your driving?

Prescription drugs and driving can be a fatal mix

hazleton product liability lawyerYou know that alcohol and illegal drugs can impair driving ability and cause dangerous accidents. But what about your prescription medication? Many people don’t realize that even medicine that is prescribed by a doctor and taken as directed can affect your driving.

It is an issue that concerns the Munley Law personal injury firm, as well as many lawmakers. The penalty for driving under the influence of medication carries the same penalty as a DUI in certain states. The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) reported that drugs were present in 43% of fatally injured drivers in 2015, more frequently than alcohol was present. This applies to some legal prescription and over the counter drugs, as well as illegal drugs.

Drugged driving is more complex than driving under the influence of alcohol for several reasons. First of all, there are hundreds of different drugs that can impair driving. This ranges from certain prescription drugs and medication that is available over the counter for pain, allergies or cold symptoms, to illegal drugs. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety  reported that prescription drugs are the most prevalent of all drugs found in drivers involved in fatal crashes.

Five possible side effects of medication that may impair driving

  1. Blurred vision
  2. Confusion
  3. Dizziness
  4. Disorientation
  5. Drowsiness

Driving under the influence of medication

While not all medications interfere with your ability to drive, some may. Taking prescription drugs and driving could lead to a vehicle crash in some cases. Certain drugs are more dangerous than others when it comes to drug-impaired driving. Benzodiazepines, which are prescribed for anxiety or sleep disorders, and opiates, prescribed for pain relief, are the prescription drugs most commonly found in drivers in car accidents who have been seriously or fatally injured.

The AAA study found that certain medication increases a driver’s risk of a car crash. The statistics are alarming. Certain antidepressants were found to increase crash risk by up to 41%. A single does of diphenhydramine, a common ingredient in over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines, can have the same effect on driving as being above the legal blood alcohol limit. One of the greatest problems involving drug-impaired driving is that most drivers don’t consider driving under the influence of drugs a serious threat. Another is the increase in the use of prescription drugs.

Prescription drug use statistics (AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety)

  • Nearly half of Americans reported taking at least one or more prescription drug in the last 30 days.
  • In the last decade, Americans taking at least one prescription increased by 10 percent.
  • The use of multiple prescription drugs increased by 20 percent.
  • The use of five or more prescription drugs increased by 70 percent.

The combination of different medications can cause serious problems. This may be especially true for older adults that use a combination of medicines. Munley Law personal injury firm encourages you to always talk to you doctor about the dangers of driving while taking certain medications and also the reactions that may be caused by the combination of medications you are taking. Be sure your doctor is aware of all of the medications you are taking, both prescription and over the counter. This important discussion with your physician or your pharmacist may prevent a fatal car accident.

Medicines that may impair your driving

Pain relievers – Opiates such as morphine and codeine can cause sleepiness, dizziness and disorientation.

Antihistamines – While many are safe, some may make you drowsy.

Antidepressants – May cause drowsiness and a decrease in reaction time. When antidepressants are combined with alcohol, the driving danger is even greater.

Antianxiety medications – Medications such as Valium and Xanax may impair judgment and reaction time.

Stimulants – Caffeine pills and other stimulants may make it difficult to concentrate. Combined with alcohol, stimulants can pose a greater danger when driving.

Is your prescription medication okay to take before driving?

The AAA Foundation has a handy online tool for learning if a medication you are taking may affect your driving. Visit Roadwise RX and type in your medication to see driver warnings, medication interactions and more.

Other safety tips from Munley Law accident lawyers include taking medications at prescribed levels and dosages and never combining medication and alcohol. Also, be sure to speak to your physician regarding the effects your medications may have on your driving. Your physician may be able to help minimize the negative effect of your medication on your driving.

As always, Munley Law personal injury firm encourages you to drive safely and free of dangerous substances.

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