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Driving Safely When You Take Medications

Part 1 of 2 - How Your Medications Can Affect You


Updated March 15, 2013

Driving Safely

For most people, driving represents freedom, control and independence. Driving enables most people to get to the places they want or need to go. For many people, driving is important economically - some drive as part of their job or to get to and from work.

Driving is a complex skill. Our ability to drive safely can be affected by changes in our physical, emotional and mental condition. Your medications may affect your ability to drive safely.

How Can Medications Affect My Driving?

People use medicines for a variety of reasons, including:

Medicines include medications that your doctor prescribes and over-the-counter medications that you buy without a doctor's prescription. Many individuals also take dietary supplements or herbal remedies. Some of these medicines 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:

  • sleepiness
  • blurred vision
  • dizziness
  • slowed movement
  • fainting
  • inability to focus or pay attention
  • nausea

Often people use more than one medicine at a time. The combination of different medicines can cause problems for some people. This is especially true for older adults because they use more medicines than any other age group. Due to changes in the body as people age, older adults are more prone to medicine related problems. The more medicines you use, the greater your risk that your medicines will affect your ability to drive safely. To help avoid problems, it is important that at least once a year you talk to your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist about all the medicines - both prescription and over-the-counter - you are using. Also let your doctor know what herbal supplements, if any, you are using. Do this even if your medicines and supplements are not currently causing you a problem.

Can I Still Drive Safely if I'm Taking Medications?

Yes, most people can drive safely if they are using medications. It depends on the effect those medicines - both prescription and over-the-counter - have on your driving. In some cases, you may not be aware of the effects. But, in many instances, your doctor can help to minimize the negative impact of your medicines on your driving in several ways. Your doctor may be able to:

  • Adjust the dose
  • Adjust the timing of doses or when you use the medicine
  • Change the medicine to one that causes less drowsiness
  • Add an exercise or nutrition program to lessen the need for medicine

Go On To Part 2 --- Driving Safely When You Take Medications --->

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