July 17, 2014

Over-the-counter medication: should you still drive?

A lot of us are not worried about this type of medicine, and yet their potential side effects can be comparable to, and worse than, being under the influence of alcohol. When the pollen count soars we reach for off-the-shelf hay fever medication (antihistamines), but often either ignore the warnings not to drive or operate machinery, or don’t bother to check the label at all.

The ‘harmless’ myth
The reality is that “over-the-counter” or “off-the-shelf” does not mean “harmless”; many medications, whether over-the-counter or prescription can affect your ability to drive safely. They can cause drowsiness and affect reaction times, concentration, vision or coordination. The main culprits are cough and cold medicines, painkillers, antihistamines and some antibiotics.

A study by the Transport Research Laboratory found that 5.2% of drivers and 4.1% of motorcyclists who died in road crashes had traces of medicinal drugs that could have affected their driving.

What should you do?
It is illegal to drive while under the influence of drugs or medicine. All drivers have a responsibility to make sure they are fit to drive when getting behind the wheel, which includes making sure their medication is safe to drive on. If in doubt ask your doctor or pharmacist, who should be able to tell you whether the medicines you are taking will affect your ability to drive.

The new law
A new drug driving law is set to come into force later this year which will make the prosecution of drug drivers easier and will cover prescription drug abusers as well as those taking illegal substances. It is worth noting that once this law comes into force, if caught driving while under the influence of drugs (both over-the-counter and prescription), you could face a 12-month driving ban, six months in jail and a fine up to £5,000.

As specialist Personal Injury solicitors, we at Withy King welcome the steps the Government is taking to address drug driving and promote increased safety on the roads. Whether it goes far enough will remain to be seen. If you or a family member have been affected by an accident on the road and would like to discuss this, please contact us on 0800 923 2068 or email [email protected].

Share on: