Chronic medical conditions require a variety of routine medications. Unfortunately, many of those medications are known to cause drowsiness, sap energy and slow reaction times in drivers. In most areas of the U.S., it’s necessary to drive to remain independent — to get to the grocery store, the doctor, to visit friends, and even to get to work. Because our ability to drive safely can be affected by prescription medications and our health, in general, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) offers the following facts and tips regarding safe driving for individuals who take multiple medications:
How Medications May Affect Your Ability To Drive:
"People take medications for a variety of reasons. Those can include:
- heart and cholesterol conditions
- high blood pressure
- muscle spasms
- Parkinson’s disease
Some 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:
- blurred vision
- slowed movement
- inability to focus or pay attention
Ways To Drive Safely When Taking Medications:
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 or when you take the medication;
- add an exercise or nutrition program to lessen the need for medication; and
- change medication to one that causes less drowsiness.
Tips For Older Drivers Who Take Medications:
Talk to your doctor honestly.
When your doctor prescribes a medicine for you, ask about side effects. How should you expect the medicine to affect your ability to drive? Remind your doctor of other medications – both prescription and over-the-counter – and herbal supplements you are taking, especially if you see more than one doctor. Talking honestly with your doctor also means telling the doctor if you are not taking all or any of the prescribed medication. Do not stop taking your medication unless your doctor tells you to.
Ask your doctor if you should drive — especially when you first take a medication.
Taking a new medication can cause you to react in a number of ways. It is recommended that you do not drive when you first start taking a new medication until you know how that drug affects you. You also need to be aware that some over-the-counter medicines and herbal supplements can make it difficult for you to drive safely.
Talk to your pharmacist.
Get to know your pharmacist. Ask the pharmacist to go over your medications with you and to remind you of effects they may have on your ability to drive safely. Be sure to request printed information about the side effects of any new medication. Remind your pharmacist of other medicines and herbal supplements you are taking. Pharmacists are available to answer questions wherever you get your medications. Many people buy medicines by mail. Mail-order pharmacies have a toll-free number you can call and a pharmacist available to answer your questions about medications.
Learn to know how your body reacts to the medications and supplements. Keep track of how you feel after you take the medication. For example, do you feel sleepy? Is your vision blurry? Do you feel weak and slow? When do these things happen?
Let your doctor and pharmacist know what is happening.
No matter what your reaction is to taking a medicine – good or bad – tell your doctor and pharmacist. Both prescription and over-the-counter medications are powerful—that’s why they work. Each person is unique. Two people may respond differently to the same medicine. If you are experiencing side effects, the doctor needs to know that in order to adjust your medication. Your doctor can help you find medications that work best for you.
Consider alternatives to driving.
You can keep your independence even if you have to cut back or give up on your driving due to your need to take medications. It may take planning ahead on your part, but it will get you to the places you want to go and the people you want to see. Consider:
- rides with family and friends;
- taxi cabs;
- shuttle buses or vans;
- public buses, trains and subways; and
Also, senior centers and religious and other local service groups often offer transportation services for older adults in the community."
Previously on the DC Metro Area Personal Injury Law Blog, we have posted articles related to:
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