Drugged driving is no joke. A 2020 study of nearly 3,000 American drivers found that taking medications leads to higher rates of unsafe driving. Drivers who are on prescription medicine are more likely to speed and brake suddenly, which can cause accidents.
Driving safety depends on your ability to handle prescription drugs and driving practices well. Before you hit the road, you should understand how prescription medicines and driving relate to each other.
What common medications affect driving safety? Do they have side effects, and how can you avoid them? What should you do if you must take medications and then go driving?
Answer these questions and you can remain a safe and healthy driver for years to come. Here is your quick guide.
Medicines That Affect Driving Safety
Many prescriptions make it difficult to drive safely. Understanding what prescriptions impair driving abilities and why they impair them is the first step toward resolving the dangers of driving with prescriptions.
Sleep medicines include sleeping pills, sedatives, and hypnotic drugs. These medicines can make you fall asleep while you are driving. While you are awake, you may become distracted or drowsy, which can lead to an accident.
Oral tablets are just as dangerous as oral sprays. It may take a little longer for oral sprays to work, but their side effects are significant.
The effects of sleep medicines can last for longer than one night. You may be less alert and able to drive in the morning after you wake up. Read the labels of your prescriptions so you understand how long they last.
Many allergy medicines contain antihistamines, which relieve allergies. However, antihistamines can slow your reaction time down and make it harder to focus. If you are driving for a long period of time, you may become disoriented.
Sleep medications can increase the sedative quality of antihistamines. Do not take an allergy medicine within a few hours of taking a sleeping pill.
You can rinse your sinuses instead of taking medication. This will clear your sinuses and nasal passages up. You can buy a saline solution at a store and use a spray bottle or pot to pour the solution into your nose.
Some pain relievers will not affect your driving ability. You can take aspirin or Tylenol without encountering any major issues. But combining pain relievers with other medications can cause problems, so you should take pain medications on their own.
Opioid medications can cause drowsiness by themselves. Some drivers become confused and fail to read street signs properly as well. You should avoid driving for several hours after you take OxyContin or another opioid.
Muscle relaxants can start affecting your body within 30 minutes. You may not be able to move your arms and legs properly, and you may become tired. You can also get charged with a DUI if you start driving erratically because of your relaxants.
Some types of relaxants have more prominent effects than other types. A 2020 study found that people on cyclobenzaprine did worse on driving tests than people on tolperisone.
Some anti-anxiety prescriptions rely on benzodiazepines, which suppress the nervous system. They can calm you down, but they can also make you drowsy and give you brain fog. Some people experience lightheadedness and memory loss, especially during difficult situations like driving.
If driving makes you anxious, you can take antidepressants instead. Most of them do not create a sedative quality, and they can improve your mood.
How to Take Prescription Medicine and Drive Safely
Prescription drugs have a lot of benefits for your health. You should not stop taking the drugs just because you’re worried about your driving ability. But you should figure out how to make prescriptions and driving work.
If you can find alternatives to your current medications that don’t affect your driving, you should take those alternatives. If your current drugs are the only drugs you can take, you can change your medication schedule. You can take your medications after you’re done driving or while you’re on a break.
When you must drive, you should ask someone to go with you. They can take over for you when the side effects kick in and you can sleep in the passenger seat.
While you are driving, you should use good defensive driving techniques. You should follow all posted signs and remain well below the speed limit. Stay out of the passing lane so faster drivers can pass you.
If you are by yourself on the road and you feel like you cannot drive, you should pull over right away. You can take a nap to bring your energy levels back, or you can call someone and ask them for a ride.
If you take multiple medications, you should space your medications out to avoid dangerous mixtures. You may need to wait a few hours before taking your next pill.
Alcohol can make the effects of your medications more prominent. You should not drink an alcoholic beverage and take your prescription within a few hours of each other.
The Essentials of Driving Safety While on Medication
Driving safety is always hard to achieve, and taking medication can make it harder. Common medications like sleeping pills and antihistamines cause drowsiness and inattentiveness. Combining pills together can make the side effects worse.
The benefits of these medications outweigh the side effects. You should adjust when you take your medications and when you drive so you don’t become drowsy on the road. You should also drive using defensive techniques and after resting.
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