Can a Prescription Medication Affect My Ability to Drive Safely?

Prescription Medication

Prescription medications help people manage illnesses and can improve one’s quality of life, and many people can take their drugs without any side effects. However, others experience problems, like weight gain, weight loss, dizziness, or extreme fatigue. Driving while under the influence of a prescription medication can be hazardous and even lead to a car accident.

Which Prescription Drugs can Impair Driving Skills?

Antidepressants and muscle relaxants can make people feel tired, which slows down reaction time. Anti-anxiety medications can help people by providing a tranquilizing effect, but this can also impair driving reaction times and judgment. Additionally, blood pressure medications, including beta blockers, may deplete the person’s energy, making them more sluggish and slower to respond.

Pain relievers can cause disorientation, dizziness, euphoria, and sleepiness. Drug abuse can also lead to impulsive driving and poor decisions. Any combination of these prescriptions with alcohol makes driving risks even higher.

Whether someone can take over-the-counter medications and then drive depends on the person’s tolerance level. For example, caffeine pills can make some people too fidgety to drive. Antihistamines can also produce this side effect, as well dry mouth, increased blood pressure, nervousness, shakiness, and an irregular heartbeat. Antihistamines can also make people feel very drowsy. As a guideline, any allergy or cold product that has an ingredient that ends with “amine” will likely produce a drowsy effect.

Can I be Charged for Driving Under the Influence of a Prescription Medication?

A person can be charged for driving under the influence of a prescription medication, but it depends on state laws. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines driver impairment as any state under which an individual drives recklessly, which applies to alcohol, illegal drugs, and prescription medications.

There are two types of driving under the influence (DUI) charges. To be charged with either, the person must be driving or operating a motor vehicle and be under the influence or intoxicated. The two DUI charges include:

  • Impairment DUI Charge: If a law enforcement officer has reason to believe that a driver is impaired, the officer can initiate a substance test or field sobriety test. If the driver passes the substance test and they are impaired, they can still face a DUI charge.
  • Per se DUI Charge: A per se DUI charge is based upon the concentration of a substance in the driver’s blood. Certain states also have established blood alcohol content (BAC) limits for drugs.

What are the Symptoms of Impaired Driving?

Law enforcement officers may perform blood concentration testing to see if a driver is impaired, but they can use other methods as well. They may first notice signs of erratic driving, like ignoring traffic signs or speeding. Once the vehicle is pulled over, officers will look for unusual behavior, like slow or slurred speech or an inability to focus. Other symptoms of impaired driving include droopy, glazed, or red eyes, being highly emotional, and acting confused.

When officers suspect impairment, they may want drivers to perform field sobriety tests. In New Jersey, drivers are not required by law to submit to these tests and cannot receive tickets for refusal. The three main field sobriety tests include the one-leg stand, horizontal gaze nystagmus, and the walk-and-turn test. There are benefits and consequences to refusing these tests, and those who do so may still be arrested.

How can I Avoid Impaired Driving?

For most patients, prescription drug side effects wear off after a few weeks. It is best to allow the body some time to adjust to the medication and to avoid consuming alcohol. Those who experience ongoing side effects can ask the prescribing physician to adjust the dose. Other options include choosing another medication with less side effects or making lifestyle changes to eliminate the need for the prescription.

Keeping an open line of communication with the physician or pharmacist is another good idea. Both can provide good feedback and suggestions since they are more familiar with the medications and their possible side effects They should also be told if there are other medications or supplements being taken as well since drugs can interact with each other. It is essential to follow the dosage directions closely because taking too much or not enough can cause problems.

Asking the physician or pharmacist if it is okay to drive while taking the medication is also wise. Maintaining an accurate record of any side effects is also important and can help medical professionals change the prescription or dosage. Any problems with the medicine should be shared immediately.

Some people are not able to drive while taking their medications. This is a difficult situation, but health and safety are important. Finding someone else to drive or arranging for other transportation may be the safest options. Some alternatives include rideshare services, public transportation, and shuttles offered by care facilities.

Mount Laurel Car Accident Lawyers at the Law Office of David S. Rochman Offer Trusted Legal Advice to Those Affected by Impaired Driving Collisions

Prescription medications may affect the ability to drive safely. If you were injured by an impaired motorist, you may need a legal advocate. The Mount Laurel car accident lawyers at the Law Office of David S. Rochman can answer all of your concerns after an impaired driving collision. For a free consultation, call us at 856-751-2345 or complete our online form. Located in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout the surrounding areas.