Medications and Driving

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​​Olderwomandriver-300x199.jpgBetter health and effective vision aides mean that more and more aging parents are continuing to drive later and later. Some studies estimate that by 2020, there will be as many as 55 million people over the age of 65 on the road.

As with any population, the skill and reliability of senior drivers varies greatly from one individual to the next. However, aging parents who are driving differ from other populations in one respect. Almost 70% of people over the age of 55 are prescribed medications that have the potential to impair their ability to drive to some degree.


What kind of effects might these medications have? They can cause difficulties that fall roughly into four categories:

Staying alert or awake.

Keeping control of the car.

Concentrating on the road and other drivers.

Changing moods/demeanor.

Any of these effects can have an impact on the effectiveness of one’s driving ability. And when there is a combination of these effects, the risk associated with driving increases substantially.

All Kinds of Medications

While most people associate medication side effects only with prescription drugs, it should be noted that some over-the-counter medications also can cause side effects. Moreover, sometimes the combination of multiple medications, whether prescription or over-the-counter, can create even more side effects or can increase the severity of existing side effects.

None of this is to say that aging parents and spouses – or anyone taking medications - shouldn’t drive. However, it does mean that they need to have a discussion with their doctors and/or pharmacists about what possible side effects could occur from their medications. They should specifically talk about how such side effects might affect driving and what precautions should be taken in such instances.

While nothing beats having a conversation about medication side effects with a living, breathing health care professional, there is an online tool which some seniors may find useful. The American Automobile Association offers a “Roadwise RX​” tool which is easy to use. Simply type in the name of a drug, and the tool will list effects associated with that drug which might impact driving.

Aging parents and spouses value the independence associated with driving. Knowing how medications can impact ability on the road helps ensure they can continue to drive more safely.​

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