Do Medications Impair Senior Drivers?

Do Medications Impair Senior Drivers?

  • January 03, 2017

Seniors account for 34 percent of all prescription medication use and 30 percent of over-the-counter medication use in the U.S. Many older adults take more than one medication on a daily basis. It makes them more susceptible to various forms of mismanagement. This is especially concerning when it comes to seniors and driving.

AAA reports that 8 out of 10 drivers over the age of 65 take medication on a daily basis. They also report that the majority of seniors who drive “do not talk to their health care providers about how the drugs might affect their safe driving abilities.” In order to help senior drivers better understand how their prescriptions might interfere with their driving abilities, AAA launched Roadwise RX.

The program “offers a way for you to record all of your medications in one central location. It also provides customized feedback on how your prescription and over-the-counter drugs, herbal supplements and foods, as well as their interactions with each other, can affect safe driving.”

Senior Driver Safety and Medications

In addition to utilizing the AAA Roadwise RX program, the following tips can help keep senior drivers, and those sharing the roads with them, safe while they are behind the wheel:

  1. Know the Side Effects

All medications, whether prescription or over-the-counter, have side effects listed in small print on the box. Because these side effects are listed in small print, seniors often overlook them before taking one.

Make a point to help your senior loved one review the side effects of each of their medications, including new ones their physician orders. And if you are unsure about which side effects may not mix well with driving, the Food and Drug Administration provides some guidelines about what specifically to look for:

  • Sleepiness/drowsiness
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Slowed movement
  • Fainting
  • Inability to focus or pay attention
  • Nausea
  • Excitability
  1. Check with the Pharmacist

If you forget to speak with your healthcare provider during your appointment about the side effects of all your medications, or are receiving different medications from different healthcare providers and are unsure of how they will interact, you can talk to your pharmacist instead.

Pharmacists are trained to understand the side effects of all the medications they provide to customers. Most can also make recommendations about how to manage those effects. And if your pharmacist doesn’t already provide you with printed information about your medication that you can take home with you, you can request it.

  1. Plan Ahead

The Food and Drug Administration also provides consumers with a list of medications that affect your ability to drive and create a safety hazard for yourself and others on the road. Potentially dangerous medications for drivers include:

  • Prescription drugs for anxiety
  • Some antidepressants
  • Products containing codeine
  • Some cold remedies and allergy products
  • Tranquilizers
  • Sleeping pills
  • Pain relievers
  • Diet pills, "stay awake" drugs, and other medications with stimulants (e.g. caffeine, ephedrine, pseudoephedrine)

If you know that any of the above items are part of your senior loved one’s regular medication regime, getting behind the wheel of a car may not be safe.

Take time to explore local transportation options for seniors. By creating a list of transportation alternatives, such as public transit or phone numbers for taxi cab companies, you can create a safer way for you or your loved one to get around town.

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