Impaired driving is dangerous and there’s more than one way to be under the influence. We know whenever someone gets behind the wheel of a vehicle impaired by slowed reaction time or diminished judgement or coordination, it puts all road users at risk.
What many Americans don’t consider is that common over-the-counter and prescription drugs might cause impairment that can affect their ability to drive safely.
The effect of alcohol while driving is well-known. Lesser known is the impact of OTC and prescription drugs on driving. In a national roadside survey of drivers conducted in 2013-2014, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that during weekday daytime, 10% of drivers tested positive for the presence of a prescription or OTC drug.
Most people don’t realize some prescription and OTC drugs can impair their driving ability and we urge motorists to think twice before getting behind the wheel, particularly after taking allergy and sleep medicines, antihistamines and prescription pain relievers. Driving while impaired by any substance is illegal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
As a community, we must take action to reduce the number of drug-impaired-driving crashes and fatalities by making the public aware that prescription and OTC drugs can impair driving skills. If drivers are impaired by any substance—alcohol or drugs—they should not get behind the wheel of a vehicle. It is never okay to drive while impaired by any substance.
Keeping America’s roads safe is a shared responsibility. If you’ve taken OTC or prescription drugs and feel lightheaded, confused, drowsy or uncoordinated, don’t drive; pass your key to a sober driver.
For information on the dangers of impaired driving and tips on how to keep our roadways safe, visit NHTSA.gov.