Driving under the influence does not necessarily refer to alcohol or illegal drugs such as cocaine or heroin. You could be under the influence of your prescription medication, or even over-the-counter medication, and find yourself facing DUI charges.
How is it you can be doing something legal, something you are supposed to be doing, and end up arrested?
Problematic side effects
You probably need your medication to function well. However, your prescription could still affect your ability to drive. Many drugs have a label with a warning stating you should not get behind the wheel or operate machinery until you know how your medication affects you. Whether yours has this warning or not, be on the alert for these and other common medication side effects:
- Blurry vision
- Slowed reactions
- Poor focus
When an officer pulls you over for weaving between lanes, running a stop light or some other sign of impairment, he or she is not likely to let you go on your way when you explain your driving behavior was simply an effect of your medication.
Drugged driving statistics
According to AAA, most drivers see no problem with driving after taking medication; only 28 percent believe it is a threat to safety. The results of another survey indicate that most people do not evaluate whether a medication they take may cause impairment; 35 percent report that, if they think a medication may cause a risk, they self-regulate.
People react to drugs in different ways, so what affects someone else may not cause any side effects at all for you. However, there are some types of medications considered a risk for almost anyone. For example, if you take a cold or allergy medication that contains diphenhydramine, it could impair your ability to maintain a safe following distance, drive at a consistent speed and stay within your lane. Among seriously or fatally injured drivers found to have prescription drugs in their system, opiates and benzodiazepines are the ones most often taken.
If you do not know how a medication will affect you, it is best not to take it within a couple of hours of getting behind the wheel. Always read the warning labels, and consider asking your doctor about alternative treatments if you discover your medication causes impairment.