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Can prescription medication lead to vehicle collisions?

Many news reports highlight the dangers of impaired driving when impairment means drunk driving or drugged driving. One category of impairment that typically does not receive the attention it deserves is driving under the influence of medication. Prescription medication and over the counter medications are strong enough to carry significant side effects that could impact a driver’s ability to safely navigate our North Carolina roads.

Across the nation, more than a third of all Americans report that they have taken two or more medications in the last 30 days. Unfortunately, these strong medications might have intense side effects that could make safe driving a near-impossibility. The American Automobile Association (AAA) has published a report focused specifically on medication use and drugged driving that highlights numerous shocking statistics, including:

  • While most people consider driving under the influence of alcohol and illegal drugs a serious safety threat, only 28% of drivers consider driving under the influence of prescription medication a serious threat to safety.
  • 33% of the drivers who were surveyed reported that they had self-regulated their driving when they believed their medications had side effects that could impair their safe driving abilities.
  • Of all drugs found in the systems of drivers involved in fatal collisions, prescription medications are the most prevalent at 46.5%.

Common types of medications with dangerous side effects can include Benzodiazepines, used to treat anxiety or sleep disorders, and Opiates, prescribed for pain relief.

Prescription medication and strong over the counter drugs can impact a driver’s ability to make good decisions while behind the wheel. From cognitive impairment to problems with perception, drivers on city streets, county roads and busy highways must recognize the warning signs of impaired driving and find safer options than getting behind the wheel while fighting strong side effects.

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