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Planning a road trip – Medicines and driving

Now that we can go on a road trip again, the need or desire to travel sometimes long distances comes the need to act carefully and responsibly on our roads.

The major causes of traffic accidents are all well documented – driving too fast, drink driving, and fatigue. Of these, probably the most difficult to control is driver fatigue.

Other than lack of sleep, there are other factors which can contribute to feeling drowsy when driving; one which is often forgotten is prescription or non-prescription medicines.

Of course, we all know alcohol can slow our reflexes even when we don’t actually feel tired. Many medicines can do this too; and taking certain medicines and drinking alcohol as well, even a small amount, can become a lethal cocktail.

When starting a new medicine, one prescribed by your doctor or one you buy without a prescription, always check with your pharmacist about the possible side effects; and ask especially if it’s likely to cause drowsiness. If you take a medicine to aid sleep, drowsiness sufficient to affect your driving skills may occur the following day.

And drowsiness is just one side effect that can affect our driving skills. Some medicines can make us dizzy, light-headed or faint. They can cause us to be angry or aggressive; to feel sick, shaky or unsteady and to have blurred or double vision. All these effects can make it unsafe for us to drive, ride or even walk!

If your medicine does affect your driving, ask your pharmacist if there is an alternative. For instance, if you get hay fever there are antihistamines and other medicines that won’t make you feel drowsy.

There are also times when missing a dose of your prescribed medicine might cause problems. For example, if your medical condition such as epilepsy, anxiety or diabetes is not properly managed, a dangerous situation might result.

You can get more detailed information about the effects of medicines on driving from pharmacies providing the Self Care fact card titled Medicines and Driving.

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