MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WBOY) – Drivers are commonly warned about the dangers of drinking and driving, but new research from AAA shows that’s not the only thing that’s impairing driving. 

A study done by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that nearly half of the motorists used one or more potentially impairing medications before getting behind the wheel. 

“Our research finds an alarming number of motorists are getting behind the wheel after they’ve taken one or more medications that could significantly impair their ability to drive safely,” said Theresa Podguski, director of legislative affairs, AAA East Central.

These medications have possible effects of dizziness, sleepiness, fainting, blurred vision, slowed movement, and attention problems, which create serious problems when making decisions on any roadway.  But the research also showed those who were taking the medications didn’t know that.   

Prescription Medications (WBOY Image)

Researchers stated up to half of drivers who took medications to combat depression, pain or sleep issues were not warned by their healthcare provider of the possible dangerous impact on driving. But those who did receive a warning were 18% less likely to get behind the wheel after use.   

Now, AAA is urging that medical and pharmacy professionals speak up to patients about the dangers of mixing over-the-counter and prescribed medications with driving to ensure more safety on the roads. 

“Medical professionals can help by giving their patients all the facts about the possible risks of these medications and ensuring they understand,” Podguski said.    

AAA recommends drivers keep these safety tips to keep in mind: 

  • Don’t Underestimate the Risks of Driving after Using Medications—Over the past three decades, society has realized the dangers associated with drunk driving. According to the latest AAA Foundation Traffic Safety Culture Index, most motorists (94.5%) consider driving after drinking alcohol very or extremely dangerous. But, only 87% feel the same about driving after using potentially impairing medications. 
  • Be Aware of Options—With advice from a doctor or pharmacist, motorists can successfully treat a medical condition and maintain the ability to drive safely. Options include, but are not limited to, timing doses to avoid instances when there is a need to drive, adjusting how much medication is taken, or even exploring alternative medications that treat symptoms without causing impairment. 
  • Be an Advocate—Become a better advocate when visiting a doctor, when filling a prescription at the pharmacy, or purchasing over-the-counter medications. AAA recommends that consumers be proactive by asking the doctor or pharmacist how the medications could affect driving ability and how to avoid those risks while treating their medical condition. If the medicine is available over-the-counter, read the warnings, heed them, or consult a pharmacist for advice.