Dave Deslauriers /
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Prescription Medications and Driving Often Don’t Mix

According to a recent study by the Mayo Clinic, “over 70% of Americans are on at least one prescription medication, and more than half take two.” Yet oftentimes labels warning of potential side effects, and urging caution when operating heavy machinery (which includes vehicles) go largely ignored. This can lead to some potentially dangerous, even fatal outcomes. In this article, we’ll discuss some potential consequences of ignoring those warning labels, talk about medications commonly known to impair driving, and make some suggestions regarding how you can keep yourself and others safe.

Driving Under the Influence

When people hear the term “Driving Under the Influence” or “DUI”, the most common associations are with alcohol or illegal drugs. However, it’s important to know that when it comes to the law, most states don’t differentiate, and a driver impaired by legally prescribed medication can just as easily be arrested for DUI as someone impaired by alcohol or illegal drugs.

Common Medications Known to Impair Driving

While everyone’s body reacts to medications differently, there are some common types know to increase one’s chances of impairment. AAA notes the following medications as being among those known to impact driving.

  • Tranquilizers
  • Narcotic pain pills
  • Sleep medicines
  • Some antidepressants
  • Cough medications
  • Antihistamines
  • Decongestants

So what should you do if you’re one of the millions of Americans on prescription medication?

Consult Your Pharmacist

Before you get behind the wheel, it’s important to consult your pharmacist regarding any potential side effects that may impair your ability to drive. Many medications caution directly against the use of heavy machinery while in use. If you’re on more than one medication, you’ll again want to question any potential side effects that the combination of medications may cause. While one medication may not cause an adverse reaction, it’s possible that adding a second could trigger certain side effects.  Also, a not so commonly thought of suggestion would to be to consult your pharmacist prior to stopping any medications. Discontinuing certain medications may result in symptoms that are just as dangerous, so it’s important to know that prior to hitting the road.

If You’re Unsure, Pull Over

If you’re behind the wheel and at any point feel like you’re ability to safely operate the vehicle has become impaired, find the nearest safe location and pull over immediately. Some medications take time to kick in, and while you may feel fine when you start your journey, side effects could arise mid trip. If you have any doubt as to your capabilities, please don’t try and tough it out. The safest thing that you can do for not only you, but all of the other drivers on the road, is to take yourself off of the road as soon as safely possible. From that point you can call a family member, friend, colleague, etc. and arrange transportation. The important thing is to not try and be a hero. The risk is most certainly not worth the reward.

For Employers, Put it in Writing

If your company employs people who are out on the road conducting business, it’s paramount that you protect your employees and the company by spelling out exactly what your company’s expectations are regarding the usage of prescription medication and driving. These expectations should not just be communicated verbally, but as part of your company’s written fleet policy as well. By taking this step, you’ll help insure your business against potential liabilities that may arise.

If your company doesn’t have a comprehensive fleet policy, or would like to review the policy that you currently have in place, please feel free to reach out to Motorlease at (800) 243-0182 or email us at info@motorlease.com.

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