Taking prescription or over-the-counter medications can impact your ability to drive on California highways safely. Yet, many drivers self-report that they have taken these medications in the last 30 days and continued to drive.
Medicines that can impair driving
Many prescription and over-the-counter medications can impair driving if taken within two hours of driving. Yet, many drivers report doing it.
Antihistamines are the most taken drug by drivers, with more than 33% of drivers reporting taking them and driving. The most significant percentage of these drivers were between 36 and 64, but drivers of all age groups were not far behind. Antihistamines can cause drowsiness which impairs reaction time.
About 11% of drivers reported taking an antidepressant and driving within two hours. The most significant percentage of these drivers were between 40 and 64, followed closely by those 65 and older.
Few drivers reported using muscle relaxers and driving. The largest group was between 40 and 64, but they only accounted for 8% of drivers in this age bracket. Muscle relaxers impair reaction time and cause drowsiness.
The study did not look at the percentage of drivers taking over-the-counter pain medications, but about 13% of drivers said they had taken prescription pain medications shortly before driving. This behavior can lead to more motor vehicle accidents.
Like muscle relaxants, very few drivers admitted to taking sleep aids before getting behind the wheel, which can result in more car accidents. This behavior was most prevalent in drivers between 40 and 64.
Total medicines taken before driving
The survey considered the behaviors of 2,657 people over 16 who reported having a driver’s license. About half of the drivers reported taking one of the medicines on the list within two hours of driving while another 19% said that they had taken two of the medications and drove.
Certain medications can impair driving, making you dizzy, sleepy, faint and inattentive. They can also affect your vision and slow down your movements.