When you drive, you need your wits about you. That means being fully awake, fully present, and fully focused on the task at hand. Many people know that certain things can make it more difficult to drive safely—drinking alcohol, being sleep deprived, or taking illegal drugs, to name a few.
But many common prescription and over-the-counter medications also pose serious risks to drivers, their passengers, and other motorists. Thankfully, most of those medications include warnings, but not all do. And to make matters worse, doctors and pharmacists don’t always discuss those risks with patients, which means there are millions of drivers who are on medications that can interfere with safe driving and who may not realize it.
Here’s What the FDA Says About the Issue
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that most medications are safe to take and still be able to drive. However, many aren’t due to the side effects they produce.
If any medication you are on causes any of the following side effects, it may be dangerous to drive while the medication is in effect:
- Sleepiness/drowsiness—Any medication that makes it hard to stay awake reduces your ability to focus on the road and puts you at risk of falling asleep behind the wheel.
- Blurred vision—Safe driving requires clear vision, and many medications cause blurry vision due to watery eyes or difficulty focusing on a particular point in the distance.
- Dizziness—When you’re dizzy, it can be difficult to stay upright in your seat and focus on driving.
- Slowed movement and reaction times—Drivers need to be able to react quickly to the movements of other vehicles, but some medications impair this ability.
- Fainting or seizures—Losing consciousness behind the wheel can put drivers at extreme risk of injury-causing and even fatal crashes.
- Impaired focus and concentration—Some medications can cause drivers to feel “loopy,” which can interfere with their ability to stay focused on the road.
- Nausea—Medications that cause nausea can make drivers preoccupied with that sensation, and they may even vomit, which can require pulling over, and is often extremely distracting.
- Anxiety—Calm drivers are safe drivers, but some medications cause anxiety, which can cause drivers to make bad judgments and decisions behind the wheel.
In addition, be aware of how long you may be at risk of experiencing side effects after taking medication. The FDA warns that medications can affect driving ability for different periods depending on their ingredients and dosages. For example, some medications only affect driving ability for a few hours, while others may impair it for days after a single dose.
What Medications Should Drivers Avoid or Be Cautious About?
Several common medical conditions are treated by drugs that can make driving dangerous. The drug types used to treat these common conditions include:
- Some opioid pain relievers, which can cause nausea and problems focusing
- Some antipsychotic and anti-seizure medications, which can cause drowsiness
- Some antidepressants, which can cause anxiety and drowsiness
- Some cold and anti-allergy medications, which can cause severe drowsiness
- Some eye drops, which can dilate pupils or cause watery, blurry vision
- Some caffeine or stimulant-containing drugs, which can mask exhaustion
- All sleep aids and sleep medications, as they can cause sudden and extreme drowsiness
- All muscle relaxants, as they can result in impaired coordination and muscular control
If you’re prescribed a new medication, always ask your doctor about its potential side effects and how it might impact your ability to drive. In addition, check with your pharmacist, read the medication’s label, and research it online or using its patient guide booklet.
This information can help you determine how it might affect you behind the wheel. If you need to drive, ask your doctor about switching you to a different medication—but never stop taking a medication without speaking to your doctor first.
Knowingly Driving While Impaired Is Negligence—And We Hold Those Drivers Liable
If you were hurt in a crash caused by a driver who was impaired, whether it was due to alcohol, drugs, or prescription medications, they can be held liable for putting you at risk. At Parrish DeVaughn Injury Lawyers, it’s our job to help victims like you get compensation for their medical bills and lost wages after crashes that weren’t their fault.
Contact our Oklahoma car accident lawyers today for a free consultation. We know what you’re going through, and it’s our goal to help. There’s no fee to get in touch with us, and you owe us nothing unless we get money for you.