Ageing and illness may result in the need for adults to take more medicine. However, medication side effects can:

  • Reduce cognition and mental alertness.
  • Slow the central nervous system.
  • Blur vision and cause dizziness.
  • Reduce coordination.1

All medical prescriptions should be tailored and reviewed often in order to reduce the risk to wellbeing.2

Australian research found that consuming benzodiazepines is associated with a five times greater risk of involvement in ac rash requiring hospitalisation
Antidepressant use is associated with almost twice the risk of involvement in a crash requiring hospitalisation[3]

HOWEVER, it is difficult to quantify the attribution of medications to impaired driving ability, as lowered ability may be linked to the health condition rather than the treatment for it.4 Despite the potential negative impacts of prescription medication, due to their role in improving medical conditions, they may also enhance driving ability.4

The impact of some medications on driving ability can be equal to a Blood Alcohol Content of 0.05 or more. The consumption of alcohol and/or illicit drugs when taking medications can further impair driving ability.5

Common medications that can impair driving include; benzodiazepines, antidepressants, antipsychotics, opioids and sedative medications. Common side effects of medications that can impair driving ability include:5

  • Feeling drowsy or dizzy.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Confusion.
  • Trouble focusing.
  • Slower reaction time.
  • Nausea. Mood changes and anxiety. 

The most common types of medications reported were:

  • Blood pressure medications;
  • Pain relief;
  • Heart-related medications;
  • Diabetes-related medications;
  • Hayfever tablets;
  • Cholesterol moderating medications; and
  • Multivitamins.6

References

  1. Lord, S. R. Falls in older people: Risk factors and strategies for prevention. (Cambridge University Press, 2007).
  2. Zia, A., Kamaruzzaman, S. B. & Tan, M. P. Polypharmacy and falls in older people: Balancing evidence-based medicine against falls risk. Postgrad. Med. 127, 330–337 (2015).
  3. Meuleners, L. B. et al. Psychoactive Medications and Crash Involvement Requiring Hospitalization for Older Drivers: A Population-Based Study. J. Am. Geriatr. Soc. 59, 1575–1580 (2011).
  4. Hetland, A. & Carr, D. B. Medications and Impaired Driving. Ann. Pharmacother. 48, 494–506 (2014).
  5. Transport Accident Commission. Always ask if it’s safe to drive when taking your medicines. (2017).
  6. Injury Matters. Mental and Physical Safety on our Roads Formative Report. (2020). Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Are Your Medicines Increasing Your Risk of a Fall or a Car Crash?