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Is Driving While on Prescription Drugs Dangerous?

Prescription Drugs

To drive safely, it takes concentration, focus, and alertness. Without these things, driving on the roads and highways of Delaware can be dangerous for everyone and a car accident is likely. Many people understand the dangers of driving while intoxicated by alcohol or illegal drugs. This is a major problem in Delaware and throughout the United States. But there is another way for drivers to be arrested for DUI: driving under the influence of prescribed, legal drugs. This is something that many drivers in Delaware do not consider. Car accident lawyers want everyone to understand the dangers that certain prescription drugs can cause while driving. It can be just as dangerous being impaired in some manner from prescription drugs as it is being drunk on alcohol. But there are things that the driver can do to protect themselves if there is a fear that a prescribed medication will affect their ability to drive safely.

Medication Side Effects Cause Impaired Driving

Many medications come with warnings about their use and the side effects that may happen. Some medication warnings will say things such as: Do not use heavy machinery when on this medication. But often, these medication warnings do not address whether people can drive regular vehicles. A car or truck that weighs a few tons can be considered heavy machinery and can cause serious personal injuries if involved in an accident. Just imagine the damage that a two-ton truck can cause traveling at 75 mph and crashing into another vehicle.

Here are some of the side effects that are seen when taking certain prescribed medications:

  • Dizziness and vertigo
  • Lightheadedness
  • Headaches
  • Slow eye/hand coordination
  • Sedated and slow movement
  • Lack of focus and acting spacey
  • Drowsy
  • Falling asleep
  • Fainting
  • Throwing up or nausea
  • Excitability
  • Anxiousness
  • Panic attacks
  • Blurred vision

Prescription Medications that can Affect Driving

There are many medications that can affect people physically to such a degree that they should seriously consider whether to drive after taking the medications. It really depends on the individual person, the medical condition for which the medication is being taken, the dosage of the medication, and the timing of taking the medication as compared with when the person will get behind the wheel. Here are some medications that drivers should be concerned about before driving a vehicle:

  • ADHD drugs such as Ritalin and Concerta
  • Stimulants/amphetamines such as Dexedrine and Adderall
  • Cough syrups containing codeine
  • Sleep medications to help induce drowsiness such as Ambien
  • Tranquilizers such as Valium
  • Opioid pain medications such as OxyContin (oxycodone), Vicodin (hydrocodone), codeine, and Avinza (morphine), fentanyl, Opana (oxymorphone)
  • Allergy medicines such as antihistamines with brand names of Claritin, Allegra, and Zyrtec, among others
  • Barbiturates such as Secobarbital, Seconal, amobarbital (Amytal), butobarbital (Butisol), pentobarbital (Nembutal)
  • Cold medication such as Nighttime Nyquil, Tylenol Nighttime Cold & Flu, Robitussin DM, among other brands
  • Anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax, Librium, Klonopin, Ativan
  • Antidepressant medications such as Trazodone, Nefazodone, and tricyclics
  • Anti-seizure drugs such as Topamax, Carbatrol, Tegretol, Dilantin, Phenytek, Depakene, Oxtellar, and Trileptal

Medical Conditions Requiring Potentially Dangerous Medications

There are many medical conditions that may require someone to take medications that might affect their ability to drive safely. If the driver has one of these diagnosed conditions and takes medication for it, they should talk to their doctor about side effects and whether driving should be allowed. The doctor may say that some medications can be taken without driving concerns, but other medications have to be taken long before the patient plans to drive so that any symptoms can wear off. Here are some medical conditions that might require someone to take medication that could affect driving ability:

  • Allergies
  • Anxiety
  • Cold
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Heart and cholesterol conditions
  • High blood pressure
  • Muscle spasms
  • Pain
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Schizophrenia

Talk to Your Doctor

If there is any uncertainty about the side effects of a medication, the best thing to do is speak with the prescribing doctor. It is perfectly normal to question the doctor specifically about driving while on certain medications. Make sure the doctor knows what other medications that the person is taking to limit the risk of two or more medications interacting badly. This also includes over-the-counter medications that were not prescribed. There are over-the-counter medications such as herbal supplements that can react badly to prescribed medications and cause someone to drive impaired and dangerously. If there is a serious concern, the doctor can work with the patient to get the right dosage to allow the person to drive. Here are some things to consider:

  • Manipulate the dose over time.
  • Change the time of day when the medicine is taken. If it causes drowsiness or sleepiness, take it at night before bedtime.
  • If possible, do things to lessen or stop the need for the medication such as losing weight, an exercise program, or nutritional changes.
  • Try different medications.

One source of medical information and advice that people often forget about is their pharmacist. If there is concern about a specific drug, talk to your pharmacist about it as well. Often, the pharmacist and doctor might work together to get the right combination of medicines to allow someone to drive safely. If you buy your prescriptions online and through the mail, these mail-order pharmacies also have trained pharmacists on duty to answer your questions.

Can You Get a DUI While Driving Impaired on a Legal Drug?

The simple answer is yes. Someone can be arrested and charged with a DUI because of taking a drug that was legally prescribed. If someone is driving erratically to the point at which they are pulled over by the police, and that person fails the field sobriety tests, they can be arrested for DUI. Further, the criminal penalties for a prescribed drug DUI is the same as if the driver was pulled over for an alcohol-related DUI or an illegal drug-related DUI. If the driver knows that the prescribed medication can cause an inability to drive safely but drives anyway, that driver can get into some serious trouble, including the loss of their driving privileges, fines, possible jail time, community service, probation, ignition interlock device, and higher automobile insurance. It can be a very costly mistake for someone to drive while impaired by prescription medications.

Not only could the driver get into trouble criminally, but also driving while impaired, no matter what drug or substance caused the impairment, can be dangerous to the health and welfare of the driver, his or her passengers, and everyone else using the road. In the state of Delaware, there are thousands of people seriously injured every year in DUI-related car and truck accidents. In 2018, for example, there were over 4,000 DUI arrests made in the state.

Delaware Car Accident Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Fight on Behalf of Those Injured in DUI Accidents

Every year, many people in Delaware suffer serious personal injuries that are caused by the negligent, reckless, and careless driving of people who are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In some instances, these DUI drivers are impaired by legally prescribed drugs. This fact does not negate the harm that they have caused. If you have been seriously injured because of a DUI driver, the Delaware car accident lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC will fight for your rights and for fair and full compensation for your injuries. Call us today at 302-888-1221 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Wilmington, Delaware, we serve clients in Dover, Newark, and Middletown.