University of Iowa
researchers who tested allergy sufferers in a driving stimulator
found that the antihistamine diphenhydramine (found in many allergy
and cold medications) significantly impaired a driver's ability to
follow, steer, and maintain the correct lane. The study showed that
diphenhydramine has more significant impact on driving performance
that alcohol does.
Researchers said that of
the 39 million Americans who suffer from hay fever and allergies
only 4.8 million take prescription medications. The
remainders go without treatment or take over-the-counter
medications. These medications may be effective, but they often
come with warnings stating drowsiness may occur and to use caution
when driving a motor vehicle or operating machinery.
Researchers say even if
you don't feel drowsy on allergy medications, you can still be
When drivers take over the
counter medications they often forget that the medication has
effects on their cognitive and motor abilities. It doesn't usually
cross their minds that they are taking a drug and will be impaired.
Even if they read the warning, it's common to assume that it only
applies a few certain people and that "do not operate heavy
machinery" means farm equipment or tractors, forgetting that
CMV's should be included as well. Also, many drugs carry warnings
about drowsiness or dizziness that people ignore. However, this is
a serious problem that leads to thousands of vehicle crashes each
The danger of getting
behind the wheel of a CMV when a driver is too tired to drive can
Drugs impair our bodies in
a variety of ways. They may blur our vision; make us tired or too
excited; alter depth perception; make us see or hear things that
may not be there; raise or lower blood pressure; react too quickly,
too slowly, or not at all. They cause problems with concentrating on
the task at hand. These problems can result from taking any type of
drug: illegal, prescription or over-the-counter. When our brain
function is altered, our muscle and nerve function changes.
which block allergic reactions - slow down reaction time and impair
decongestants - can cause drowsiness, anxiety, and dizziness.
Drowsy driving is responsible for an estimated 100,000 traffic
crashes and about 1,500 deaths every year, according to the
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
prescription drugs - (including medications to treat allergies, pain,
diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol, ulcers, depression,
anxiety disorders, and insomnia) can cause drowsiness, affect
vision and other skills that can be serious hazards on the road.
sedatives, and sleeping pills - slow
down the central nervous system causing drowsiness and diminished
reaction time, and impairing the ability to concentrate.
drugs - such as cold and cough medicines,
antihistamines, drugs to prevent nausea or motion sickness, pain
relievers, decongestants, and diuretics can cause drowsiness or
dizziness that can impair a driver's skills and reflexes.
Some drugs may make you
feel alert and confident in your driving. In reality of the
situation may be quite different. Drugs can fool you into believing
you are in control of your driving when you are, in fact, impaired.
Here is a partial list of
legal drugs that can - in the right amount - impair your ability to
Narcotic pain medications
Blood sugar medicines
Blood pressure medicines
Motion sickness medication
To avoid harming yourself
or others, partner with your physician and pharmacist to learn
information regarding your medication's side effects, and what
drugs are usually safe to combine-especially behind the wheel.
Never take more than the prescribed dose, or take anyone else's
medicine. Ask for non-sedating forms of your prescriptions if you
are a professional driver. Allow your body time to adjust to new
medications before you drive. Most importantly, each of us is
responsible for knowing the signs and symptoms of being drug
impaired before we get behind the wheel of any vehicle.