Taking Meds? Beware of How They Impact Your Driving

by Terry Bryant

Even for those who have driven for decades, operating a motor vehicle is a complex skill. The only difference between experienced and non-experienced drivers is the former have good habits which have become second nature. But what happens when they take medications, whether prescription or over-the-counter? Can their mental acuity and driving habits be altered by these drugs? The answer is “yes.” How much, though, depends on variables such as the person’s body chemistry relative to the drugs they’re taking. Our ability to drive safely can be affected by changes in our physical, emotional, and mental condition. We’ve come up with a few hints that you – with your doctor – can use to determine when it’s safe to drive on your meds, and when it’s not.
People use medicines for a variety of very good reasons, including:

  • allergies
  • anxiety
  • cold
  • depression
  • diabetes
  • heart problems
  • cholesterol management
  • high blood pressure
  • muscle spasms
  • pain
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • other maladies

We take a variety of medicines which are prescribed by a doctor, sold over the counter without a prescription, and even herbal supplements. So, a variety of reactions may result. And this can make safely driving any motor vehicle more difficult, because reaction times – both intellectual and physical – may be affected.
This is especially true for something as complicated as driving a commercial truck. Other side effects due to drug absorption include:

  • Sleepiness
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Slowed movements
  • Fainting
  • Inability to focus on tasks at hand
  • For safety’s sake (your own and that of others) it’s critical that you have an annual visit with your doctor(s) about all medicines you are taking – prescription, over-the-counter, and herbal. Even if none are causing any noticeable problems, don’t let it stop you from having this important yearly discussion.

Talk to your doctor(s) honestly. Leave nothing out, because any small piece of missing information can affect his or her advice.

Ask your doctor(s) if you should drive, especially with new medications or combinations of them. The smallest body chemical modifications can affect your ability to drive safely.

Have a similar conversation with your pharmacist. If you are told something different, check back with your doctor.

Monitor yourself carefully, especially if your medication regimen or lifestyle has changed. Also note whether alcohol has any impact on your ability to think clearly, relative to your medications.

What if you have to cut back or give up driving? You’ll have to plan ahead, but there are options to get where you want to go. Consider alternatives such as:

  • taxis and rideshares (e.g Uber, Lyft)
  • Metro (but allow for more time)
  • friends and family
  • walking (which is good for your health anyway).

How to find out more about medications

After talking with your doctor(s), the following are good resources or ongoing education about the drugs you take and how they affect your ability to drive (and work) safely:

  • The Food and Drug Administration (1-888-463-6332) or fda.gov/drugs.
  • Seniors can get a copy of “Age Page On Older Drivers” from the National Institute on Aging at 1-800-222-2225; or on the web at niapublications.org.

If you have any questions about personal injury or need help after an accident, you are encouraged to contact the Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law Firm at  (800) 444-5000 or send us a message online.