I take only prescription medication and it has a warning on it about driving, but I have to get to work and live my life. What am I supposed to do?
My only advice to you is to be sure that you are driving safely. Whether you are taking prescription drugs, driving drowsy, drinking or taking illegal drugs – all can affect your ability to drive. The law does not discriminate. If you are driving drowsy or taking prescription drugs that are putting yourself or others at danger, you can be fined and/or arrested.
December has been named National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month sponsored by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (a White House initiative) and National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, promoted by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) to bring attention to the problem. Because prescription drugs are legal and medically necessary in most cases, the AAA Foundation study found that only 28% of drivers consider driving under the influence of prescription drugs a “very serious threat.” Over-the-counter drugs can be a threat as well. Yet the same group considered alcohol and illegal drugs a serious threat. Though it differs in each state, in most states, the driver stopped for taking illegal drugs, drinking alcohol and those taking a prescription drug— can all be charged with DUI.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, legal drug use is on the rise with a 60% increase since the early 1990s in the number of people taking at least one prescription medication. What is most surprising about these new studies and statistics, is that prescription drugs are the most prevalent of all drugs found in drugged drivers involved in fatal crashes at a rate of 46.5%. Who would have thought it would be prescription drugs? I wouldn’t have.
My best answer to your driving question, is to speak with your pharmacist and your physician. But only you can determine whether you’re safe to drive and driving safely. Prescriptions have side effects such as altered vision and dizziness. If you are experiencing these types of symptoms, you should not drive and you should speak with your doctor to learn if there is an alternative that may not have these side effects. It’s also important to read the insert provided by the pharmacy which lists all of the side effects. Medications affect people differently and mixing two or more prescriptions can cause different side effects. Mixing prescriptions with alcohol is also the worst combination when driving. And of course, you shouldn’t drive when drinking.
Most drug and alcohol use impairs your senses and reflexes, and therefore, your ability to drive safely and increases the risk of accidents. Prescriptions for anxiety and sleep, especially ones that contain benzodiazepines and pain relievers which contain opiates are commonly found in accidents involving fatalities or serious injuries. According to the AAA Foundation study, some types of antidepressants increase the risk of a crash by 40%. Even some over-the-counter cold and allergy medications containing diphenhydramine impair driving ability. Be certain that those ingredients are only contained in medications you take before bedtime. The study found that one dose of diphenhydramine can have the same effect as being above the legal blood-alcohol limit.
AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has developed a program called Roadwise RX, a free tool that drivers can use to see the potential side effects of medications and drug interactions with other medications, alcohol and even food and supplements. (Just click on the link and type in the name of your medications and supplements.) Please don’t hesitate to ask your health provider and/or pharmacist questions about your medications, especially when you get a new one. Be certain you let them know about all medications and supplements you take. After all, nothing is more important than being able to drive safely.
All of us at Jaffarian Volvo Toyota Scion want you have a happy and safe holiday season and be able to drive when you’re at your best.
P.S. Please drop by our showroom at 600 River Road in Haverhill to help support Emmaus, a wonderful organization that provides solutions to homelessness. This is our charity of choice this season as we focus on collecting items needed by local homeless children. Please consider stopping in to fill the back of a Toyota Tundra on or before December 18th with children’s pajamas and sox, diapers, children’s toothbrushes and toothpaste.