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Did you know taking medications can influence your driving?

Medications play an essential role in keeping us healthy and managing our health conditions. However, certain medications may also influence how alert we are and further affect our ability to drive and operate heavy machinery.

Medications refer to prescribed medicines, over the counter preparations, herbal medicines and remedies and can come in a variety of different formulations such as tablets, liquids, inhalers, drops, creams, patches and suppositories.  

Groups of medications that can affect your ability to drive 

Some of the more common groups of medications that can affect and influence your ability to drive safely include:  

  • Cold and allergy products 
  • Sleeping tablets  
  • Pain killers (such as opioids) 
  • High blood pressure & heart medications 
  • Antidepressants and antipsychotics 
  • Benzodiazepines and other anxiety medicines 
  • Cannabinoids 
  • Anti-nausea/motion sickness medicines 

Side effects to watch out for 

There are many ways in which medication may affect your ability to drive or operate heavy machinery effectively. Some of the common side effects include: 

  • Making you feel drowsy or tired  
  • Affecting coordination 
  • Becoming dizzy, lightheaded or feeling faint 
  • Feeling confused or having poor concentration  
  • Feeling anxious or making you feel shaky and unsteady  
  • Experiencing mood changes 
  • Causing nausea and/or vomiting 
  • Problems with eyesight and/or hearing 
  • Slower and more delayed reaction times 

Your responsibility as a heavy vehicle operator 

It is important to be aware of what medications you are taking and the side effects that they can cause. Whilst some prescription medications can have potential negative side effects (as listed above), it is also important to note that some medications may also enhance your ability to drive due to their role in improving the medical condition. To figure out what effect your medications may have, it is important to always speak to your GP or pharmacist about them whilst also voicing any concerns or queries you have. Other actions you can take to learn more about the effects of your medication include:  

  • Reading the warning labels listed on the box of medication 
  • Reading the medicines information that can often be found inside the box or printed for you by your pharmacist  
  • Discussing with your GP or pharmacist the timeframe in which you can take the medication as some medicines stay in the body for longer periods of time (>24 hours) and can affect your driving on the road hours later. 

More medication resources 

Injury Matters have a range of resources that can help in identifying ways to reduce your risk of medication-related incidents on the road. Visit our ‘Know your medication’ blog post for further information on how to increase your safety on the road as well as the ‘Know Your Medications to Stay Alert toolkit’

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