You know that consuming alcohol before getting behind the wheel can lead to an arrest for driving while intoxicated. However, various drugs also affect your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.
Illegal substances are not the only ones that impair driving abilities — prescription and over-the-counter medications can, as well. Not all medications have side effects that impair driving, but certain ones do.
Side effects that impair the ability to operate a vehicle
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration lists some of the side effects of medications that may lead to a DWI. These include:
- Inability to pay attention
- Slowed reaction times
- Blurred vision
Although it is illegal to operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher, you can still get a DWI with no alcohol if there is an impairment of driving skills. Before taking a medication, check the label for impairing side effects, and do not drive before you know how a medication will affect you.
Medications with side effects that can affect driving abilities
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration names common medications that may have driving-related side effects, including antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, opioids, sleeping pills, antiseizure meds, muscle relaxants and drugs that contain codeine.
Certain OTC medications also do not mix with driving. Before getting behind the wheel, you should avoid taking antihistamines and cold meds, antidiarrheal medication, motion sickness meds and diet pills.
If you read the labels of the medications you take and realize they put you at risk behind the wheel, the smartest thing to do is avoid driving. However, if that is not possible, talk to your doctor about adjusting the dose, switching to a different drug or changing the time you take the medication.