According to the AAA, about half of drivers aged 65 to 79 regularly take seven or more drugs. However, regardless of how many drugs you take, the important thing is knowing their potential side effects.
The AAA Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers (LongROAD) study found some startling statistics. Fewer than 1 in 5 individuals were warned by their doctor or pharmacist about driving impairments their drugs may cause.
With an estimated 40 million drivers over the age of 65, many on multiple medications, this is rather worrying.
Medication and Auto Safety
Findings showed that about 7 out of 10 seniors in the test group take cardiovascular or central nervous system drugs. Some even take both. Additionally, around half of the subjects take hormone-related drugs or electrolytes.
“Given the high rate of medications, physicians and pharmacists need to play a role in both cautious prescribing as well as counseling,” suggested the foundation in their report. “Yet studies of older drivers and physician counseling about medications and driving have demonstrated a lack of knowledge on the part of both parties.”
Operating Heavy Machinery
While many medications do include warning labels, we don’t always pay as much attention to them as we should.
Whether a label advises against “operating heavy machinery” or says it “may cause drowsiness,” both imply you shouldn’t be driving.
Regardless of labeling, it’s also still up to your doctor or health care professional to communicate any risks. With that happening far less often than it should occur, it certainly raises cause for concern.
Driving While Fatigued
Medication-induced drowsiness or fatigue can set in quickly or it can be somewhat delayed. Unfortunately, tens of thousands of accidents are caused every year due to fatigued driving. In fact, it’s just as dangerous as driving drunk.
On average, about 83,000 accidents occur annually due to people driving while tired, leading to around 1,000 deaths a year. A significant number of those involving driving under the influence of medication.
Checking Your Prescriptions
As you likely know, some medications have obvious side effects, but others may not be so clear. Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the drugs you’re taking and what the risks may be. If dizziness, drowsiness, or other impairments are common side effects, you should avoid driving a vehicle.
Also, keep in mind that over-the-counter medications can also sometimes cause drowsiness as well.