Alarming Facts About Prescription Drugs and Driving


Personal Injury Attorneys Blog
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If you have been injured by someone operating a vehicle under the influence of prescription medication, you generally have the exact same eligibility for compensation as if you were harmed by a drunk driver. Impaired is impaired. Getting behind the wheel of a motor vehicle while using any medication with a sedating effect, or one that is known to diminish cognition or otherwise hinder reflexes, is willful negligence, and it is a crime.

Accident victims have an absolute right to seek compensation for their losses that stem from such accidents. The law is on your side and is a mechanism for holding impaired drivers financially responsible for their negligence and criminal actions.

Even Small Amounts of Some Medications Can Have a Measurable Effect on Driving Ability

Driving is a skill that is complex and requires both dexterity and focus. Although it is possible to safely operate a car while taking prescription medicine, drivers are often not aware of the negative impact their medicine has on their motor skills, balance, and judgment, as well as their ability to drive. Ignorance is not an excuse for inflicting harm.

Prescription medications can cause the following:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Vertigo
  • Reduced reaction time
  • Fainting
  • Inability to focus
  • Nausea

Although by no means an exhaustive list, the most common types of prescription medications commonly associated with driving under the influence (DUI) cases are:

  • Pain relievers
  • Anti-anxiety medication
  • Antihistamines
  • Antidepressants
  • Blood pressure medication
  • Stimulants
  • Sleeping pills
  • Diet medications

At Emroch & Kilduff, we find it surprising how many Virginia citizens routinely take prescription medication without any thought to potential side effects that can impact not only their own life but the lives of innocent strangers. Despite the fact that DUI convictions in Virginia showed a 6.1 percent decrease from the previous year, in 2017, 18,701 drivers in our state were convicted of DUI. This means 51 drivers per day got behind the wheel of a motor vehicle and got caught putting other lives at risk.

A particularly alarming fact is that, on a daily basis, physicians hand licensed drivers necessary, legitimate, and legal prescriptions for common conditions such as:

  • Allergies
  • Anxiety
  • The common cold
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Elevated cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Muscle spasms
  • Pain

Warning labels, such as those listed below, can be misinterpreted and are often ignored.

  • Use caution when operating a car
  • Caution, this drug alone or with alcohol may impair your ability to drive
  • Do not take with alcohol
  • May cause drowsiness or dizziness

In 2017, the Associate Director of the West Virginia University School of Public Health’s Injury Control Research Center led a study on driver awareness of the potential effects of prescription medications. The findings reported that nearly 20 percent of people involved in the study reported recent use of a prescription medication with potential for impairment, but also that not all of those individuals were aware of the negative side effects associated with the medications, despite receiving warnings from their healthcare provider or the pill bottle’s label.

Hold the Offender Accountable

If your family has suffered an injury caused by an impaired driver, you deserve justice. The success of these types of personal injury claims often depends on the experience and determination of your legal representation. Call a personal injury attorney at Emroch & Kilduff today at (804) 358-1568, or contact us online. We understand the hidden dangers of prescription medications, and we stand ready to serve our neighbors in Richmond, Petersburg, Tappahannock, Fredericksburg, and the surrounding areas.