Prescription Drugs and Driving

driving and prescription drugs, driving under the influence, prescription drugs and driving

What To Know About Using Prescription Drugs and Driving

The use and misuse of prescription medication can pose a serious problem with driving. Similar to driving under the influence of alcohol, driving while drugged or on some specific medications can pose a great threat to the safety of other road users. So what should you know about the specifics of prescription drugs and driving?

An elusive element to this problem is that the effect of prescription drugs on someone who wants to drive is dependent on some factors that cannot be easily accessed and controlled.

The effects of prescription medication on drivers are not similar to the effect of alcohol and marijuana and the prescription drugs can last days in the system of the drivers.  In most cases, anti-anxiety drugs which slow responses were found to encourage drivers to take more risk with their vehicle.

The chances of a crash are very high for drivers who use some prescription medications, mix them with other drugs or use them with alcohol.

Key Facts on Prescription Drugs and Driving  

  • Several studies have found that some prescription medications raise a driver’s chances of being involved in a car crash. Some antidepressants increase the driver’s crash risk by as much as 41%.
  • Diphenhydramine which is a common ingredient in prescription drugs has been found to severely impair a person’s ability to drive. A single dose of this medication produces the same effect as driving above the alcohol blood limit.
  • Prescription drugs are responsible for over 46.5% of fatal car crashes.
  • Opioids and benzodiazepines which are prescribed for pain relief and anxiety or sleep disorders were found to be the major drugs taken by drivers in fatal accidents.
  • Just 28% of surveyed drivers believe driving under the influence of prescription drugs poses a high risk to the safety of other road users as compared to the 66% who believes the same for alcohol.

Drugs Capable of Causing Impairment While Driving

“Hard” Drugs

The drugs in this category include the street drugs like heroin and cocaine, LSD, crack and so on. They are highly addictive and have an almost immediate impact on the central nervous system. They can produce feelings of euphoria, excitement, hallucinations and increased energy levels. When taken by drivers they encourage speeding and recklessness which can lead to fatal accidents.

 “Soft” Drugs

One of the primary drugs that fall into this category is cannabis or marijuana. When marijuana is smoked or administered in any other way, it produces the same effects as the hard drugs and consequently makes the person dangerous to other people on the road. Low level of concentration, low vigilance, poor coordination, impaired judgment, longer reaction time and slower reflexes are some of the effects drivers face when they use marijuana.

When driving under the influence of cannabis, the following may occur:

  • May not notice road signs
  • May not be able to maintain a constant trajectory
  • May be unable to respond in the case of an emergency
  • Pass other vehicles in an unsafe manner
  • Take too long to brake
  • Swerve off the road

Prescription and over-the-counter medication

Some of the common medications prescribed by health care providers or sold over the counter can greatly affect driving and cognitive skills. Some of the effects of these medications include;

  • blurred vision
  • decreased concentration
  • drowsiness
  • dizziness
  • memory problems
  • decreased concentration
  • decreased concentration

Laws Related to Driving and Prescription Drugs

Almost all drugs that act on the brain also have the ability to affect driving. The kind of driving impairment may differ based on the specific prescription medication taken.

States and law enforcement agencies have implemented special training programs designed to assist police officers in spotting signs of drug impairment.

The laws on drugged driving in the different states of America differ greatly. For instance in the state of Illinois if you are found to be driving under the influence of prescription drugs or there are traces of drugs in your body, you could be charged with a DUI crime. The law in this state is so strict that if there is any evidence of drugs in your urine or blood while driving, you may be charged with a DUI.

Many states in America have made it illegal for anyone behind the wheel to have any level of prohibited drugs in their body, but setting a threshold for prescription medication is quite difficult. Prescription medication has complex chemistry and unlike alcohol may last for days in the body.



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