Did you know taking medications can influence your driving?

Medications play an essential role in keeping us healthy and managing our health conditions. However, certain medications may also influence how alert we are and further affect our ability to drive and operate heavy machinery. Medications refer to prescribed medicines, over the counter preparations, herbal medicines and remedies and can come in a variety of different formulations such as tablets, liquids, inhalers, drops, creams, patches and suppositories.  

Common medications on white table panadol pharmacy choice vitamin d

Groups of medications that can affect your ability to drive 

Some of the more common groups of medications that can affect and influence your ability to drive safely include:  

  • Cold and allergy products 
  • Sleeping tablets  
  • Pain killers (such as opioids) 
  • High blood pressure & heart medications 
  • Antidepressants and antipsychotics 
  • Benzodiazepines and other anxiety medicines 
  • Cannabinoids 
  • Anti-nausea/motion sickness medicines 

Side effects to watch out for 

There are many ways in which medication may affect your ability to drive or operate heavy machinery effectively. Some of the common side effects include: 

  • Making you feel drowsy or tired  
  • Affecting coordination 
  • Becoming dizzy, lightheaded or feeling faint 
  • Feeling confused or having poor concentration  
  • Feeling anxious or making you feel shaky and unsteady  
  • Experiencing mood changes 
  • Causing nausea and/or vomiting 
  • Problems with eyesight and/or hearing 
  • Slower and more delayed reaction times 
Heavy Vehicle worker tying down truck

Your responsibility as a heavy vehicle operator 

It is important to be aware of what medications you are taking and the side effects that they can cause. Whilst some prescription medications can have potential negative side effects (as listed above), it is also important to note that some medications may also enhance your ability to drive due to their role in improving the medical condition. To figure out what effect your medications may have, it is important to always speak to your GP or pharmacist about them whilst also voicing any concerns or queries you have. Other actions you can take to learn more about the effects of your medication include:  

  • Reading the warning labels listed on the box of medication 
  • Reading the medicines information that can often be found inside the box or printed for you by your pharmacist  
  • Discussing with your GP or pharmacist the timeframe in which you can take the medication as some medicines stay in the body for longer periods of time (>24 hours) and can affect your driving on the road hours later. 

More medication resources 

Injury Matters have a range of resources that can help in identifying ways to reduce your risk of medication-related incidents on the road. Visit our ‘Know your medication’ blog post for further information on how to increase your safety on the road as well as the ‘Know Your Medications to Stay Alert toolkit’

Know your medication: our top tips

Truck drivers need to be alert and able to respond quickly on the road however sometimes medication can affect our ability to do this. Here are our top tips to make sure you know your medication.

Medication plays an important role in assisting us to manage health conditions, but it’s important to be aware of what you’re putting into your body and what side effects you might have. Truck drivers need to be alert and able to respond quickly on the road however sometimes medication can affect our ability to do this. Here are our top tips to make sure you know your medication. 

Read the labels on your medication boxes 

Not only do the labels on our medications tell us the name and ingredients of what we’re taking and when to take them, but they also sometimes have warning labels on them, particularly if there’s a chance that they may make you drowsy. We know this one sounds pretty simple, but these labels can be small so take a moment to check! Look out for the following labels and check with your pharmacist if you see any of the following: 

“This medicine may cause drowsiness and may increase the effects of alcohol. If affected, do not drive a motor vehicle or operate machinery.”1

“This medicine may affect mental alertness and/or coordination. If affected, do not drive a motor vehicle or operate machinery.”1

“This preparation is to aid sleep. Drowsiness may continue the following day. If affected, do not drive or operate machinery. Avoid alcohol.”1

Range of common medications, over the counter and prescription types.

Only take medication that is prescribed to you

Medication is prescribed to each individual person and can have a different effect on you than it does on others. It’s important that you never share your medication with anyone else or take medication that hasn’t been given to you by a health professional.

Listen to your body

You know your own body better than anyone else so pay attention to what it’s telling you! All medication comes with potential side effects; some of the more common side effects that can impact your driving to look out for include:

  • Feeling sleepy or tired 
  • Changes in vision (e.g., blurred, double vision) 
  • Dizziness, light-headed or faint feeling 
  • Muscle weakness 
  • Feel unsteady or anxious 
  • Changes in mood (e.g., feeling angry) 
  • Slow reaction time 
  • Difficulty concentrating or confused 

If you do experience any of these side effects from your medication that may affect your driving, speak to your doctor or pharmacist about possible alternatives.

Man in high-vis shirt popping a tablet out of its casing.

Ask for a medicine check

If you’re reading this and are unsure about the medication that you’re already taking, it’s not too late to check in with your pharmacist or doctor. Next time you’re in the pharmacy that you get your medication from, simply ask the pharmacist for a list of all your medicines, information about their side effects, and whether they can impact your driving. Alternatively, book an appointment with your doctor to discuss this.

We recommend also speaking to your pharmacist or doctor for a medicine check each time you start a new medication or even if the dose of a medication you’ve been taking for a while has changed.

Want to know more?

Check out our Know Your Medications to Stay Alert Toolkit for further information on how to stay safe and alert on our roads.

What’s the best diet for truck drivers?

It can be tricky to put much thought ahead to mealtimes for truck drivers; especially when servos are full of quick-grab options like sausage rolls and chips. Whether you’re working long haul, line haul or pickup and delivery, time pressures and just being on the road can make choosing between the healthy or junk options tricky.

It can be tricky to put much thought ahead to mealtimes for truck drivers; especially when servos are full of quick-grab options like sausage rolls and chips. Whether you’re working long haul, line haul or pickup and delivery, time pressures and just being on the road can make choosing between the healthy or junk options tricky.

The heavy carbohydrate and sugar load of these easy favorites can lead to a slower metabolism and insulin spikes– making you sluggish behind the wheel, affecting your level of alertness, even if you’re only eating once or twice a day. By swapping fried for fresh when you can, you can improve your alertness behind the wheel.

Here are some easy tips to improve your diet, with balance in mind. Be sure to check in with your GP about healthy food options best suited to you.

Eat regularly (3-4 times/day)

On the road, we know your chances to have a good meal are few and far between. In fact, most truck drivers often sacrifice their mealtimes to make better time on the road. While this may seem like a great idea to reduce your waistline, skipping meals means your metabolism slows down, and you’re more likely to choose more calorie-dense meals when you do eat.

By eating more often, like ensuring you are eating two meals and two snacks a day, you maintain your metabolism. This increases your body’s ability to use the energy you’re consuming. This in turn keeps you more alert, energized and ready to work.

Example: Plan your meals ahead of time and make the most of your cab fridge/freezer. If you have a smartwatch, you can even set alarms to remind you to have a snack between meals to ensure you’re not famished at the next stop.

Drink water

Humans often confuse hunger for thirst. Due to the similarity of these sensations, it’s easy to see why! This makes it a great idea to always keep a reusable water bottle with you, or stock your cab fridge/freezer with water

When you’re feeling peckish on the road, make sure to drink some water before stopping to eat. This will help you keep your portions realistic to your hunger level, while also keeping your body hydrated.

Be sure to check in with your GP about how much water is suitable for your body and lifestyle.

Example: If you love the feel of fizzy drinks, swap your Coke for a lightly flavoured sparkling water. Hydration and flavour in one, without the energy slump!

Minimise refined carbohydrates

Refined carbohydrates from foods like breads, biscuits, pastries, and pasta can cause unwanted insulin spikes, which can make you tired and sluggish behind the wheel.

When you’re on the road, try to avoid these types of foods, and instead opt to get your carbs from veggies, legumes and whole grains instead. Make sure to team these with some lean protein and a little healthy fat, and you’ll be fuller for longer and alert on the road.

Example: Swap a sausage roll for a chicken and avocado salad sandwich.

Maximise your fruit and veggies

We all know the food pyramid and know we can always eat more vegetables. In reality, it can be hard to put that into motion, especially when you’re on the road and your choices are limited. Fruits and veggies give us fibre, carbs, micro and macro nutrients to keep us going long-term.

This is where canned or frozen veggies come in handy – they are often just as nutritious as fresh but are able to travel with you.

Visit LiveLighter for some handy tips to increase your intake here.

Example: Get creative with your meals and snacks. Pack a jar of peanut butter, some pre-cut celery and apple for a delicious, filling snack on the go. Keep some mixed nuts around the cab to stop those chip cravings. Pop some rolled oats in some milk with your favourite berries (fresh or frozen!) in a tub for an easy breakky.

Want some more tips for a healthy lifestyle?

Check out our Fuel Your Body campaign here!

ATTEND | Mental and Physical Safety on our Roads Webinar

Join Injury Matters this August as we share the findings from formative research conducted into heavy vehicle operator mental and physical well-being as part of Mental and Physical Safety (MaPS) on our Road project. Hear about the issues facing heavy vehicle operators and suggestions on how to support them to keep them safe on our roads.

Join Injury Matters as we share the findings from formative research conducted into heavy vehicle operator mental and physical well-being as part of Mental and Physical Safety (MaPS) on our Roads project. Hear about the issues facing heavy vehicle operators and suggestions on how to support them to keep them safe on our roads.

This webinar will be presented by Injury Matters Clare Robbins and Christine Smith. TransafeWA Ana Stachewicz will join us to address one of the common stressors faced daily by heavy vehicle operators and provide insight into the Give a Tru*k campaign.

Thursday 6 August 2020 10am to 11am AWST
REGISTER HERE

The webinar aims to:

  • Increase knowledge on mental and physical issues facing heavy vehicle operators.
  • Increase understanding on how MaPS on our Roads can assist heavy vehicle operators and industry.
  • Increase knowledge of how best to support heavy vehicle operators in your workplace.
  • Increased understanding of the Give a Tru*k safety campaign.

If you have any queries please contact the Injury Matters team at [email protected] or 6166 7688.

The MaPS on Our Roads project is funded as part of the Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative (HVSI), administered by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator on behalf of the Commonwealth Government.

MaPS On Our Roads: Consultation Snapshot

A snapshot of key findings that came from our consultation with the heavy vehicle workforce.

The first critical stage of the project was to consult with heavy vehicle drivers and industry to gain further understanding of current impacts on mental and physical, health and safety for those working on our roads.

Between October 2019 and March 2020, we conducted group consultations, in-depth interviews, and a heavy vehicle operator survey with those working within the heavy vehicle industry. This period has been an unprecedented time of change, uncertainty and natural disaster which has directly impacted this industry group. Injury Matters is incredibly grateful to those who participated in the project to date, large or small, given competing demands and pressures faced by the heavy vehicle workforce currently.

To acknowledge the complex skill, expertise and accreditation required to safely operate heavy vehicles, we will refer to drivers as ‘heavy vehicle operators’. We acknowledge the training and experience required to operate these complex, powerful vehicles and in keeping themselves and other road users safe.

Please see our MaPS Consultation Findings infographic below for a snapshot of key findings that came from our consultation with the heavy vehicle workforce.  

Our consultations confirmed that heavy vehicle operators are often the first to come across the scene of a road crash. Being first on scene, providing assistance, witnessing, being involved in or causing a crash, can have a traumatic and long-lasting impact on those directly and indirectly involved, including family, friends and work colleagues.

All heavy vehicle operators involved in the consultation process offered suggestions regarding how to improve road safety.  Additional suggestions for health and wellbeing initiatives included: providing education to all road users on how to safely share the road with heavy vehicles, improving the infrastructure available to heavy vehicle operators and providing additional social events.

These findings offer insight into how we engage with the heavy vehicle industry and direction of the MaPS on Our Roads awareness raising products and resources.