Even though impaired driving has historically meant someone getting behind the wheel under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the definition has evolved in recent years. Both prescription and over-the-counter medication has become strong enough to dramatically impact a driver’s perceptions, awareness and cognitive ability. Unfortunately, these side effects can lead to serious motor vehicle collisions with devastating injuries.
While there are countless combinations and factors that can lead to driving impairment, three types of medications can do the most harm, including:
- Opioid pain relievers: This is a strong class of medications that includes OxyContin, Vicodin, codeine and morphine. Side effects of opioids can include dizziness, nausea, fatigue and respiratory distress. A driver taking this medication can feel suddenly tired and have trouble focusing on the road.
- Sleep medicine: Individuals take various sleep medicines before bed or in the middle of the night to combat insomnia. Drivers incorrectly believe these medications will have left the bloodstream by the next morning. Zolpidem, the active ingredient in many sleep medicines, can dramatically impair driving ability and other activities even the following morning.
- Allergy medication: Nearly countless substances can trigger an allergic reaction. From pet dander and mold to tree pollen and grass clippings, these substances can dramatically affect certain individuals. By taking antihistamines, however, individuals might feel drowsy, experience blurred perceptions and have a slower reaction time than they would normally.
Any substance that impacts a driver’s ability to safely navigate traffic is considered an impairment. While alcohol and drugs were often the most common sources of impairment, medication is now strong enough to lead to cognitive and perceptive challenges. Individuals who get behind the wheel while impaired risk causing devastating collisions with catastrophic injuries.