Senior Drivers Unaware Of Dangers Related To Prescription Drug Use

Legal Articles | July 30, 2010

Most people understand the dangers of drunk driving: when you get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol, the consequences can be catastrophic. Increasingly, people are realizing that the same applies to prescription drugs: the warnings to steer clear of operating heavy machinery include motor vehicles.

Unfortunately, according to a recent study conducted by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, many seniors remain unaware of the potential risks of driving under the influence of prescription medications.

The researchers surveyed more than 600 drivers between the ages of 56 and 93, with an average age of 70. Among the participants, almost 95 percent reported one or more medical conditions and almost 80 percent reported taking one or more medications.

Almost 70 percent of all participants reported using one or more prescription medication that has the potential to impair driving, meaning that the drug has the potential to cause drowsiness, dizziness, blurry vision or other side effects that might pose a hazard while driving. Generally, older drivers took more of these types of medications than younger drivers.

In stark contrast, only 28 percent of respondents reported awareness that they were taking medications that could impair their driving. These rates were particularly low among older respondents and those with fewer years of education.

Perhaps surprisingly, awareness of the potential for impairment did not significantly increase with multiple medications that could impair driving or with an increase in the number of medical conditions. Furthermore, an individual’s awareness of taking medications that could impair driving did not affect actual driving behaviors. In other words, those who were aware that their medications could impair their driving drove just as much overall (with regard to days and miles driven weekly) as those who had no awareness of the dangers.

When any drivers under the influence of prescription medications take to the roads, they put themselves and everyone else at risk. For older drivers, the impairment caused by prescription medications is likely to be compounded by the natural declines in vision, reflexes and other physical abilities that occur with age.

Anytime an individual does not have full control over his or her vehicle, there is the potential for a car accident. If an elderly driver causes a car accident because he or she is driving under the influence of medication, anyone else involved in the accident may have legal recourse. Speak to a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer to discuss any potential claims arising from such an accident.