Thanks to drunk driving awareness and activist groups, the number of people killed or injured as a result of drunk drivers has decreased in recent years. However, drugged driving, driving under the influence of illegal and prescription drugs, continues to be a problem. Taking drugs, even prescription medication, will impair your driving skills. Drugged drivers may suffer from slower reaction times, erratic and aggressive behavior, inability to concentrate, nausea, hallucinations, panic attacks, paranoia, tremors, drowsiness, dizziness, and fatigue.

When an automobile accident occurs, and the responding officer suspects driver impairment, he can order the driver to be screened for the presence of drugs in the blood stream, either through blood or urine tests.

Every state has specific blood-alcohol level restrictions in order to regulate drunk driving, but it is much more difficult to regulate drugged driving for a variety of reasons:

• The vast number of illicit and prescription drugs that cause impairment • The varying degree of impairment to individuals by the same drug • Difficulty in testing every drug for possible impairments • Variation on amount of time drugs stay in the bloodstream

Many prescription and over-the-counter drugs can have an effect on a driver’s ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. Drowsiness, impaired judgment, and lack of self-confidence are just some of these effects. These effects can be amplified if medication is not taken according to instructions. Altering dosages or frequencies is never a good idea. Often these effects are short-lived, so it is possible to refrain from driving until one can do so safely.

It is the responsibility of every driver to make sure they are safe to operate a vehicle before getting behind the wheel. All medications have warning labels that tell patients of the risks associated with taking them, and warnings against driving or operating heavy machinery. The best way to make sure a drug is safe is to ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist. They can advise you on how to safely take your medication without risking anyone’s safety by driving while impaired.