According to recent research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, almost half of older adults remain active drivers while using seven or more prescription medications. More disturbing is the fact that almost 20 percent of those drivers may be using medications that are considered potentially inappropriate, meaning that their risks generally outweigh their benefits. Some of those, like benzodiazepines and older antihistamines, can cause driving impairment and may increase the risk of a crash by as much as 300 percent.
The research also found that the more medications a senior is taking, the greater the chance that one of them is potentially inappropriate or could cause driving impairment.
“There is a growing population of older drivers who use multiple medications and likely do not realize the impact these prescriptions may have on their driving,” says the executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
About 42 million adults over 65 are actively driving in the U.S., and that number is expected to rise substantially over the next ten years. That will make senior drivers the largest group of drivers in the U.S.
Common medications for older people can cause unexpected impairment
The research involved evaluating the medication records of almost 3,000 senior drivers who were participating in another AAA study. Medical researchers discovered that two very common medications used by older people can cause impairment and increase crash risk:
Cardiovascular medications that treat heart and blood vessel conditions.
Central nervous system (CNS) agents that treat the brain and central nervous system. This group includes both narcotic and non-narcotic painkillers, anti-anxiety medications and stimulants.
Yet previous AAA research found that less than 18 percent of senior drivers report receiving any warning from their healthcare providers about possible driving impairment. Additionally, about 34 percent of these drivers receive prescriptions from more than one doctor, which reduces the chance that dangerous or impairing interactions would be flagged.
Understand all your medications’ effects and interactions before driving
The last thing you need is to be charged with DUI for using a prescription drug that impaired you, but these charges are often filed over prescription medications. Therefore, it’s crucial that you discuss the potential side-effects of each drug you take, along with any possible interactions between those drugs.
If you do end up being arrested, contact an experienced DUI attorney right away to protect your rights and begin preparing your defense.