What Prescription Drugs Impair Driving?

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Most people know driving under the influence (DUI) of illicit substances is against the law, but did you know you could also get a DUI for driving after taking prescription drugs? It is illegal to operate a motor vehicle in Florida under the influence of any impairing substance, including prescription and over-the-counter medications. Being aware of the medications you are taking and how they may affect your ability to drive can help you prevent a serious car accident.

About Drug-Impaired Driving

Police in Fort Lauderdale have the power to conduct a traffic stop on the probable cause that a driver is driving under the influence. Signs of impaired driving that may alert the officer include swerving, weaving in and out of lanes, braking abruptly, and running red lights. During the traffic stop, the officer may order a chemical drug test or a field impairment assessment. The officer may then proceed with a DUI charge if he or she believes the driver is under the influence of some impairing substance – including prescription medications.

Driving under the influence of certain medications can be extremely dangerous. Some prescription and over-the-counter drugs have side effects such as drowsiness, dizziness, blurred vision, confusion, weakness, nausea, lack of focus, and fainting that can negatively impact a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle. If a driver experiences one or more of these side effects, he or she may fall asleep or lose control of the vehicle, causing an accident.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 43% of deceased drivers in 2016 were under the influence of drugs – a greater amount than those under the influence of alcohol. Marijuana use in fatally injured drivers is increasing, possibly due to its legalization for medical purposes in many states. It is your responsibility as a driver to pay attention to what prescription medications you are taking. Read the labels, talk to your doctor, and abstain from driving if you are taking risky drugs.

Prescription Drugs to Avoid Before Driving

Preventing DUIs starts with knowing what drugs may have dangerous side effects for driving. Although patients should always read the warning labels on prescription drugs before taking them and driving, it can help to know which prescription drugs are more likely to cause DUIs. If your doctor has prescribed a medication on this list for you, think twice before taking the medication and driving.

  • Antihistamines: found in cold, sinus, flu, and allergy medications can affect the part of the brain that controls the feeling of alertness, often causing drowsiness that can impair driving. Benadryl is a common example of an antihistamine that causes drowsiness. Over-the-counter sleeping pills also contain antihistamines.
  • Antidepressants and anti-anxiety prescription medications: such as Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin can cause drowsiness in users. They may also cause dizziness, which can impair driving.
  • Antipsychotic medications: (as well as anticonvulsants) may interfere with the ability to drive safely. They can affect memory, reflexes, coordination, and cognition in a way that is dangerous while driving. Patients on these prescription medications may lose the ability to drive completely.
  • High blood pressure medications: such as alpha- and beta-adrenergic blocking agents, can cause drowsiness. Blood pressure medications can slow the heart rate and make the user feel tired.
  • Prescription painkillers: such as OxyContin and Percocet often list drowsiness as a potential side effect. It is best to try pain medications before driving to see how they impact you. You may experience drowsiness, dizziness, weakness, or other symptoms that could hinder your ability to drive safely.

Prescription medications can impair a driver just as much as illicit substances and alcohol. The state of Florida treats driving under the influence of impairing prescription drugs like other DUI cases. You could end up in jail, paying hefty fines, and/or have your license suspended or revoked. Always read prescription drug labels, and do not take anything that could impair your abilities if you plan on driving.