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Driving at Risk – How OTC Drugs Can Make You An Unsafe Driver

A man holding a handful of pills while sitting at the steering wheel to illustrate how over-the-counter drugs can make you an unsafe driver.

Did you know that some over-the-counter drugs can make you an unsafe driver by putting you at higher risk of an accident and a possible DUI charge? In the short run, this could raise your auto insurance rates.

OTC Medications and Their Impact on Safe Driving

Different drugs can have varying impacts on a person’s ability to drive safely: 

  • Diarrhea Medications – Stick with OTC antidiarrheals such as Pepto-Bismol or Kaopectate as the safer alternatives because they may not cause drowsiness. Prescription versions, though stronger and quicker acting, contain Loperamide, an “opioid receptor agonist” that affects the intestines. These can leave you dehydrated.  Drowsiness and dizziness are rare, but can happen. Seek medical information from a doctor or pharmacist before taking any counter drugs to understand their impact on your body. 
  • Narcotic painkillers – Depending on dosage, these substances are very powerful. They can numb your pain…but, they can also numb your brain, impairing your judgment, as well as your ability to drive a motor vehicle safely should you have to react quickly if a pedestrian or other car darts into your path. 
  • Sleeping pills – You obviously would only take one at night to help you fall asleep, not right before you’re about to drive. However, the after effects can carry over to the next morning, leaving some people feeling groggy eight to ten hours after taking a sleeping pill. The best advice would be to wait for at least 12 hours before hitting the road.
  • Antidepressants and anxiety medications – These prescription meds are designed to sedate you so you’re more capable of coping with stressful events. Problem is – these depressant drugs have a tendency to make you feel a little “loopy,” confused or forgetful. Studies have shown an increased risk of traffic accidents in both elderly and young drivers. 
  • Muscle relaxants – Suppressors of your central nervous system, the relief you get from back and shoulder pain will more than triple the likelihood of you getting into an accident. When you use opioids, you can expect slower reactions and diminished ability to make critical decisions quickly.
  • Attention deficit drugs – If you suffer from ADD or ADHD, these can cause confusion and drowsiness. Hyperactivity can also occur in those individuals with the susceptibility. So, it’s always best to consult with your doctor before taking these medications. 
  • Allergy medicines – These medications can provide relief from symptoms such as sneezing, itching, and runny nose. However, some allergy medications, such as antihistamines like Benadryl and Zyrtec, contain ingredients that can cause drowsiness or sedation, which can negatively affect reaction time while driving. This can put a person at higher risk of an accident and in some states, it is illegal to drive under the influence of drugs, or with an inappropriate blood alcohol level which can result in serious consequences. 

Other OTC and Prescription Medications

In addition to drowsiness, other OTC medications, as well as prescription drugs, can produce temporary confusion, “brain fog,” nausea, and grogginess, conditions that can negatively impact driving ability and cause impairment. It’s important to read and follow the warnings and use caution when taking any drug dose, being aware of its potential effects on safe driving. If a medication causes significant side effects, it’s best to avoid driving altogether.

Use common sense. If you’re on prescription drugs that can come with major side effects, don’t drive. As for over-the-counter drugs, be aware that allergy meds are not the only ones to use caution with. Cough and cold medicines have many of the same qualities associated with antihistamines, the main one being drowsiness. Other symptoms might be impaired judgment, dizziness, blurred vision, and even confusion. 

Additionally, be aware of any potential interactions with counter medications or illegal drugs you might be taking. If you have any concerns or questions, consult with your doctor or pharmacist to get the most accurate and up-to-date information.

When using over-the-counter drugs, it’s important to use caution and always follow the instructions and recommendations provided by your doctor or pharmacist. If you experience any adverse reactions, be sure to seek medical attention immediately. To ensure your traffic safety on the road, it’s recommended to avoid using these medications before driving.

In addition to over-the-counter drugs or new prescription medications, a medical condition can also have an impact on your ability to drive safely. 

Consult a Doctor Before Driving

It’s important to inform your doctor of any medications you are taking, as well as any medical conditions you have, in order to determine if they may affect your ability to drive. In some cases, the law may prohibit you from driving if you are taking certain medications or if you have a medical condition that affects your ability to drive safely.

It’s a good idea to consult with a doctor or pharmacist about any potential interactions or concerns. It’s important to remember that the influence of prescription drugs can also impact your ability to drive safely. To avoid risking your safety and the safety of others on the road, it’s best to avoid driving if you are taking medications that can cause significant side effects. Always read warning labels and follow instructions carefully. If you experience any adverse reactions while taking medication, seek health attention immediately. 

Stay Safe On The Road

It’s also important to note that driving under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs is against the law and can have serious consequences, including fines, imprisonment, and a criminal record. 

Driving under the influence of any impairing substance that affects your ability to drive safely, including prescription and over-the-counter medications, is dangerous and can put yourself and others on the road at risk. It’s always best to err on the side of caution and avoid driving if you are under the influence of any substance that could impair your ability to drive safely. 

If you are paying too much for your car insurance, give Freeway Insurance a call at (800) 777-5620 or get a free car insurance quote online. Freeway can give you a personalized quote based on your needs and budget.

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