Your Medications and Your Driving

If you’ve ever worried about the effect your medications might have on your driving skill, the experts from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ( http://www.nhtsa.gov/) tell you what you need to know:

For most people, driving represents freedom, control and independence. Driving enables most people to get to the places they want or need to go. For many people, driving is important economically – some drive as part of their job or to get to and from work.

Driving is a complex skill. Our ability to drive safely can be affected by changes in our physical, emotional and mental condition. The following information can help you and your health care professional talk about how your medications may affect your ability to drive safely.

How can medications affect my driving?

People take medications for a variety of reasons. Those can include: allergies; anxiety; cold; depression; diabetes; heart and cholesterol conditions; high blood pressure; muscle spasms; pain; Parkinson’s disease; or schizophrenia.

Medicines include medications that your doctor prescribes and over-the-counter medications that you buy without a doctor’s prescription. Many individuals also take herbal supplements. Some of these medications and supplements may cause a variety of reactions that may make it more difficult for you to drive a car safely. These reactions may include sleepiness; blurred vision; dizziness; slowed movement; fainting; inability to focus or pay attention; nausea.

Often people take more than one medication at a time. The combination of different medications can cause problems for some people. This is especially true for older adults because they take more medications than any other age group. Due to changes in the body as people age, older adults are more prone to medication related problems. The more medications you take, the greater your risk that your medicines will affect your ability to drive safely. To help avoid problems, it is important that at least once a year you talk to your doctor or pharmacist about all the medications – both prescription and over-the-counter – you are taking. Also let your professional know what herbal supplements, if any, you are taking. Do this even if your medications and supplements are not currently causing you a problem.

Can I still drive safely if I am taking medications?

Yes, most people can drive safely if they are taking medications. It depends on the effect those medications – both prescription and over-the-counter – have on your driving. In some cases you may not be aware of the effects. But, in many instances, your doctor can help to minimize the negative impact of your medications on your driving in several ways. Your doctor may be able to adjust the dose; adjust the timing of doses; add an exercise or nutrition program to lessen the need for medication; or change your medication to one that causes less drowsiness.

What can I do if I am taking medications?