It is clear that the effects of alcohol and illegal drugs create a serious danger behind the wheel. However, many drivers do not realize that their legal medications also risk causing an accident.

Impaired driving is illegal regardless of the substance involved. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) cautions that certain medications are too hazardous for driving. Motorists must avoid driving while under the effects of these medications.

Check your medications

Common over-the-counter and prescription medications that may affect driving safety include:

  • Antidepressants and anxiety medication
  • Antihistamines and allergy medication
  • Sleep aids and muscle relaxants
  • Prescription pain relievers

These medications often cause side effects such as fatigue and vision problems. Fatigued driving with or without medication is impaired driving. Operating a motor vehicle while experiencing these side effects is a form of negligence.

How to know when you are ready to drive

To determine whether you can drive, you can:

  • Read the label: Drug labels must list potential side effects. If the side effects include drowsiness or other conditions that may impact your ability to drive, plan ahead. The label might tell you to avoid operating heavy machinery, which includes your car.
  • Pay attention to your condition: Even if you have taken the medication before, you might experience different side effects each time.
  • Talk to your doctor: Certain combinations of medications could increase the strength of side effects.

When in doubt, find alternative transportation or wait until all side effects have dissipated. Although it is easy to believe that you are safe to drive, you might not realize just how much the medication is affecting your judgment or motor skills.

If you cause an accident while under the influence of drugs, you may be liable for the damages. Similarly, if another driver hits you while they are impaired, you can hold them accountable for negligence. Given the legal and physical consequences of an accident, driving under the influence of drugs is not a risk worth taking.