AAA Study: Many drivers hit the road on potentially impairing medications

Traffic Safety Pulse News

(AAA) Nearly half of the drivers surveyed said they used one or more potentially impairing medications in the past 30 days, according to new research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The proportion of those choosing to drive is higher among those taking multiple medications. More concerning, many who took these medications to combat depression, pain or sleep issues were not warned by their healthcare provider regarding the possible dangerous impact on driving.

Moreover, drivers who take one or more of these medications may be unaware of the possible impacts on their driving ability. Many potentially driver impairing (PDI) medications have potential effects that can be dangerous when mixed with driving, including dizziness, sleepiness, fainting, blurred vision, slowed movement and attention problems.

Pill organizer, glass of water and open palm with pills on a blue background

AAA recommends that the advice given by medical and pharmacy professionals about the dangers of mixing over-the-counter and prescribed medications with driving must be vastly improved and more consistently emphasized to maximize safety.

“Our research finds that many drivers are taking one or more potentially impairing medications before getting behind the wheel,” said Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “It is important for medical professionals to offer clear consultation to their patients of the possible risks and ensure they understand them.”

This study focused on the prevalence of recent use by drivers of commonly used prescriptions and over-the-counter medications such as antihistamines, cough medicines, antidepressants, prescription pain medicines, muscle relaxants, sleep aids and amphetamines. These are PDI medications, but not all drivers who reported taking them were impaired. As the term implies, PDI medications can potentially impair driving, but effects in individuals may vary. To learn more about potentially impairing medications, click here.