Quarter of older drivers impaired by legal drugs
May 22, 2008
Australian motorists, especially those over 55, are putting lives at risk by driving while drowsy, dizzy and clumsy on prescription medication, research shows.
They are twice as likely to be driving on legal drugs as on illegal ones, despite warnings on packaging. More than one in 10 Australians admit to driving after using marijuana, cocaine, speed or Ecstasy, research commissioned by insurance company AAMI shows.
But almost twice as many admit to driving after taking prescription or over-the-counter medicines - even if the label warns them not to. Australians over the age of 55 are the worst offenders, with more than a quarter (27 per cent) admitting taking legal drugs before getting behind the wheel.
Medication considered dangerous when driving includes the common brands Valium, Xanax, Prozac, Codeine, Vicodin and Voltaren. Possible side-effects of these drugs can be drowsiness, dizziness, clumsiness, confusion, abnormal vision, ear ringing, lack of concentration, lightheadedness or muscle twitches. In some cases they can even cause unconsciousness, fainting spells or seizures.
The research breaks down common misconceptions about what driving under the influence is, AAMI spokesman Geoff Hughes says. "Drivers who are using prescription or over-the-counter drugs should check the labels for any warnings against driving before even thinking about using their cars."
Pharmaceutical Society of Australia spokesman Aaron Hall said motorists should be aware of the potential effects of new medications or combining medications before they get behind the wheel. "If you are unsure whether a medicine could affect your driving skills or perception, you should discuss it with your pharmacist or doctor."