When you see the warning “Do not operate heavy machinery while using this medication,” you probably think it’s talking about construction equipment and tractors. However, this includes cars and trucks. With almost half of all drivers on some form of prescription medication, drugged driving is a major accident risk. Here’s what you need to know to keep yourself safe and on the right side of the law.
How Do Prescription Drugs Affect Driving?
If you see these side effects mentioned, there’s a good chance that your medication may impair your driving:
– Slowed reaction times
– Agitation and impulsiveness
– Reduced concentration
These are the most common medications that can cause driving issues:
– Anxiety medications
– Some types of antidepressants
– Muscle relaxers
– Sleeping medications
– Pain relievers
– Blood pressure medicines
– Cough and cold medicines
– Stimulants, including caffeine, ephedrine and diet pills
Note, that not all of these medicines are prescription. Some over-the-counter medicines can cause problems on their own, or through interactions with other drugs.
Drugged Driving: It Applies to All Drugs
Most states include intoxication from prescription drugs under drugged driving laws. Wisconsin law specifically includes prescription drugs in statutes covering intoxicated driving. You can still be charged with driving while intoxicated while taking drugs bought over the counter and prescribed by your doctor. The logic is the same as being charged with a DWI after drinking alcohol you legally purchased: either way, you’re a danger to yourself and others while behind the wheel.
Reducing the Effects of Medications
If you think a medicine you are taking is affecting your driving, there are ways to reduce your risk of an accident.
– Don’t stop taking your medication. Without the medicine in your system, you aren’t treating the problem it was prescribed for. Quitting some medications cold turkey can cause adverse reactions.
– When you visit your doctor, be sure to list all the prescription medications, OTC drugs and herbal supplements you are taking. Any of these can cause drug interactions.
– Ask about side effects. If there are common effects that can affect driving, you and your doctor can make adjustments to reduce issues. If you have a rarer side effect, you can trace it to the medicine and ask about it when you visit your physician.
Together, you and your doctor can apply these strategies to reduce adverse effects:
– Adjust the timing of doses, reducing side effects when you need to drive
– Alter the dose to reduce side effects
– Change your prescription to something that will have less of an effect on your driving abilities
– Make lifestyle changes like diet and exercise that will reduce the need for medication
Don’t forget to talk to your pharmacist. They may notice issues or interactions that your physician doesn’t catch. They’ll also be able to give you advice when you’re picking up over-the-counter medications.
What Happens if I’m Pulled Over for Drugged Driving?
If you’re pulled over for impaired driving and the officer thinks it’s something other than alcohol or sleepiness, you will be brought in for a Drug Recognition Evaluation (DRE,) a test developed by the NHTSA. This is conducted by a DRE officer who has training in identifying drug intoxication issues. He or she will follow a 12-step evaluation:
1. A breathalyzer is used to detect alcohol. If the apparent level of intoxication doesn’t match blood alcohol levels, the DRE officer may suspect drugs.
2. The DRE officer interviews the arresting officer, taking note of any observations that imply drug use.
3. The officer makes a preliminary examination of pupil size, pulse, and eye movement.
4. Eye movement is fully evaluated.
5. The officer conducts divided attention tests. These are similar to sobriety tests, like standing on one leg or touching one’s nose.
6. Vital signs including blood pressure and body temperature are checked.
7. Dark room evaluation of eye changes and signs of mouth and nose scaring that indicate drug use.
8. Muscle tone is inspected for changes caused by drugs.
9. The officer checks for injection sites, along with another pulse reading.
10. The person is interviewed about drugs they are taking.
11. The DRE officer picks drug categories the person is likely affected by.
12. Blood or urine tests are taken to determine the presence of drugs.
Car Accidents are Frustrating, but We Can Make Repair Easier.
Car accidents are terrible no matter the cause, but Merton Auto Body can at least make the auto body repair process easier. We can usually generate an initial estimate in 15 minutes. From there, our on-staff appraiser can work with your insurance company to get work approved, so you can have your car back faster. Our shop is between Lisbon and North Lake, just a few miles northwest of Pewaukee. No matter where you are in Wisconsin’s Lake Country, we’re just a short drive or tow away.