Beware: Many Senior Drivers Are Impaired by Prescription Medications

elderly drivers on medicationsThe dangers of drinking alcohol or taking drugs before driving is usually a message geared towards younger drivers, but the reality is that many elderly drivers are guilty of driving under the influence of substances and need to be reminded of the dangers of impaired driving. This is because many seniors take multiple medications for their ailments and chronic health conditions.

Prescription medications and over-the-counter drugs can be dangerous when combined with driving. Just as alcohol and drugs adversely effect a driver’s judgment, reactions, and thinking, taking a prescription or over-the-counter medication can impair a driver in the same way as drinking an alcoholic beverage before driving.

What’s alarming is that 78 percent of elderly drivers admit to taking medication that could cause them to become impaired behind the wheel, according to a new report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This is because many medications cause drowsiness and confusion, and many drugs interact with each other in ways that can affect one’s ability to drive safely. Although pharmacists and doctors should discuss medication interactions with their patients, sometimes patients choose to ignore the warnings and end up driving impaired.

The Effects Medications Have on Driving

Elderly drivers might not realize the effects their medications have on them until it’s too late and they cause a crash that leaves them and others seriously injured or dead. Many older people take multiple medications for health conditions such as arthritis, hypertension, diabetes, congestive heart failure, atrial fibrillation, and much more. These medications can cause side effects, such as the following, that impair driving:

  • Drowsiness
  • Weakness
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Low blood sugar
  • Mental fogginess
  • Impaired vision

Unfortunately, many older people continue to drive when they shouldn’t because they don’t want to turn in their keys and give up their independence. What’s alarming is that there will be more elderly people driving under the influence of medications as the life expectancy of Americans continues to rise.

There are 43 million people 65 and older in this nation, and this number is expected to double by 2050, according to the NHTSA report. Because of this information and because there are more elderly drivers logging more miles, driving under the influence of medications is a huge concern.

Please share this blog with your family so that important conversations can start taking place about your loved one’s ability to drive safely on certain medications.

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