Safety Tips for Driving While Taking Medications
1. DO Assume that any medications your doctor prescribes could impair your driving
2. Do Ask your doctor or pharmacist about potential side effects or drug interactions that might impair your driving ability
3. Do Refrain from driving for a few days following a change in your medications
4. Do Be responsible
1. Don't Drive immediately after taking a new medication
2. Don't Drive immediately after starting a new dose of a medication
3. Don't Get behind the wheel if you are feeling drowsy, dizzy, cloudy, foggy, confused or otherwise impaired
4. Don't Be careless
Probably the single most important rule is to assume is that any medications your doctor prescribes could impair your driving. This assumption is similar one of the unwritten rules of firearm safety: one should always assume that a gun is loaded. These types of assumptions immediately demand careful, cautious behavior and actions. Although a doctor should disclose all potential dangers about medication use, your doctor may not warn you about the dangers of driving every time that a new medication is started or a dose is changed. Ultimately, everyone needs to do their part to avoid dangerous situations, especially when it comes to driving safely.
What does "driving under the influence (DUI)" mean? Technically speaking, DUI is the act of operating a motor vehicle while impaired by the effects of alcohol or other drugs. Four key components of this definition require a closer look. The act of "operating" means that the vehicle in question is in motion, not parked or standing by. Many motorized vehicles qualify: cars, motorcycles, boats, planes, snowmobile, ATV, or pretty much anything that moves under motorized power. A little less obvious and tricky is what qualifies as "impaired driving." In terms of driving, "impairment" is a condition of being unable to operate the vehicle safely as a consequence of mental or physical unfitness. We have all seen a lot of unsafe driving and have questioned the mental fitness of those who run red lights, make a sudden lane changes and weave around while being distracted. However, not all of these individuals qualify for a DUI.
Which brings us to the final component of a DUI, the impairment must be due to the effects of alcohol or drugs. The blood alcohol limit is pretty cut and dry in most states. But, the prescription drugs and over-the-counter drugs offer a quagmire of legal issues. For example, if someone starts a new blood pressure medication and is feeling light-headed, is that individual impaired by the drug? If someone takes an anti-histamine and is feeling drowsy, is that individual impaired by the drug? A prosecutor would have to offer evidence proving that the vehicle was not being operated safely and that the individual showed signs of being mentally unfit. A defense attorney would counter with evidence that the individual was operating the vehicle safely and not showing signs of impairment. Court battles are won and lost based on these finer points of a law.
By knowing the laws and acting responsibly, those who take medications can drive safely. In fact, some individuals who have chronic pain may be safer drivers when taking a medication that eases their pain just enough to concentrate better. However, there are those like Mr. Clement Andera who are sitting in prison for killing a human being while driving under the influence of prescription drugs.
On April 5th 2008, Mr. Andera was driving a vehicle while under the influence of Vicodin and Valium. On that day, he ran his vehicle into three children killing a 22 month old child and severely injuring two other children. He tried to hide behind the fact that he had been following the advice of a doctor and had chronic back pain. Ultimately, the Ohio Supreme court (State v Andera) ruled that Mr. Andera was completely liable for the incident and upheld his sentence to 15 years in prison. Let this be a lesson to us all: If you drive while impaired by alcohol or other drugs, you will be held accountable for the results of your carelessness.