The first week in December is designated as Older Driver Safety Awareness Week. The idea is to promote the importance of mobility and transportation for aging adults, especially as it relates to their safety and security. Seniors who lack access to transportation are essentially confined to their homes, while age-related vision, hearing, and health issues can create safety risks for seniors, and others, who still drive.
One of those risks is drugged driving. According to research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, nearly 50 percent of Older Americans report using seven or more medications while remaining active drivers. An evaluation of the medications found that nearly 20 percent of older drivers were using PIMS, or potentially inappropriate medications, that generally should be avoided because they have limited therapeutic benefit, pose excess harm, or both.
PIMS such as benzodiazepines and first-generation antihistamines are known to cause impairing effects in seniors, including blurred vision, confusion, fatigue, or lack of good coordination, which can increase a driver’s risk of a crash by up to 300 percent. “There is a growing population of older drivers who use multiple medications and likely do not realize the impact these prescriptions may have on their driving,” said Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
This can be extremely dangerous, and can put older drivers at risk of criminal penalties. Drugged driving can lead to charges of driving under the influence, or DUI, even if the drugs are legally prescribed. Other impairing medicines include narcotic painkillers, sleep medications, certain antidepressants, tranquilizers, cough medicines, and decongestants. Consuming these medicines, especially in combination with alcohol and other medications, can be catastrophic when operating a motor vehicle.
To protect themselves, older drivers should consider:
- Understanding all side-effects of their prescribed drugs
- Ask their physician for alternatives if necessary
- Never drink and get behind the wheel
- Ask for help whenever they are in doubt about driving
If you or someone you know is a senior adult who has been charged with a DUI relating to medications or alcohol, time is of the essence to take action. Do not wait to contact an experienced, local attorney to learn more about your rights. We are here for you twenty-four hours a day and are standing by to help you.