Medications and the Older Driver

Pharmaceuticals are big business. In 2014, around $370 billion was spent in the U.S. on medication. The top three therapy areas for which the most money was spent were oncology, diabetes, and mental health, to the tune of almost $90 billion. Statistics suggest that medicines are used more by older adults than by any other age group. In fact, this demographic frequently takes multiple medications at the same time; and with 80 percent living with one or more chronic conditions, older adults tend to rely on drug therapy as an essential tool for managing these ailments. Older adults are also at increased risk of serious adverse drug events such as disorientation and hallucinations.

Prescription and nonprescription drugs that may interfere with driving include:

    • Anticonvulsants
    • Antiemetics
    • Antihistamines
    • Antipsychotics
    • Benzodiazepines or anti-anxiety drugs
    • Drugs used to combat glaucoma
    • Muscle relaxants
    • Opioids
    • Sleep aids
    • Tricyclic antidepressants.

These factors, combined with the decreased vision, impaired hearing, and slowed reaction time that often accompany aging, can result in dangerous drivers. Many motorists do not know how – or even if -- their medications affect their driving skills. For example, benzodiazepines prescribed to fight anxiety and insomnia can have side effects such as drowsiness, confusion, or impaired motor function. Painkillers that contain codeine or propoxyphene may cause sedation or mild impairment, making it harder to quickly process information and make decisions. Just 10 milligrams of the anti-anxiety medication Valium can impair driving more than the legal blood alcohol concentration limit. Blood pressure drugs as well as over-the-counter cold remedies and antihistamines can lead to drowsiness, blurred vision, or dizziness.

If you take medication, it’s important to understand how it can impact your driving. Tell your health care provider about all the drugs and supplements that you take so that he or she has a full picture of possible interactions. Keep track of how the medicines make you feel and discuss it with your provider who can advise if any changes should to be made to your dosage or prescriptions. If, like most older adults, you have more than one prescribing healthcare provider, be sure all of them know everything you are taking. Create a personal medication record listing all the medicines you take, the doses, the method of delivery, time of day, and any symptoms you experience, and bring it to all your doctor appointments. If the label says "Do not use while operating heavy machinery," consider letting someone else drive. Operating a car safely is complicated enough without being impaired by medication.

If you or someone you love has been injured by an impaired motorist who chose to drive while under the influence of drugs, you need an experienced attorney to effectively represent your interests. As one of South Florida's most respected and oldest law firms, Stabinski Law has helped many people sort out their legal rights, responsibilities, and remedies. For 45 years, we have been the trusted advocates for countless traffic collision victims, and we are highly experienced in handling a wide range of auto and truck accident cases. We also work on a contingency basis, which means that if there is no recovery, there is no fee or cost to you. If you wish to learn more about how our firm can be of assistance to you, we encourage you to contact us for a free consultation by calling 305-964-8644-3100 or filling out a case evaluation form.

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