Medications Affect Driving

Many of us take prescription drugs or over-the-counter (OTC) remedies, at least occasionally. Medication doesn't necessarily make us unfit to drive, but it has the potential to affect our alertness, reaction time, motor skills, and judgment.

Even nonprescription drugs, such as cold and allergy medicines and sleep aids, can cause unexpected side effects or allergic reactions.

Drugs can have more impact when they interact with alcohol, other medications (including herbs and alternative remedies), and even some foods. It's also worth noting that our reaction to medication can change as we age. The cold medicine you took when you were 20 may seem much stronger to you at 50.

State laws for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) do not distinguish among types of drugs. If a driver is impaired by any type of drug (alcohol, OTC medications, prescription medications), he or she can be charged.

Before You Get Behind the Wheel:

  • Always read labels carefully.
  • Don't drive if you don't know how a drug or medication will affect you.
  • Take the dosage prescribed on the recommended schedule.
  • Do not take medications prescribed to someone else.
  • Never combine medication and alcohol.
  • Carry a list of your medications and dosages in case of emergency.
  • If you have questions about a prescription or OTC drug, consult your pharmacist or physician.

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