Taking multiple medications may increase crash risks for older drivers. Most drivers, however, have not been warned about how their medicines may affect driving ability.
Medications Increase Crash Dangers
Senior drivers over the age of 65 who take multiple over-the-counter and prescription medications face greater risks for traffic accidents. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, close to 50 percent of elderly drivers admit to using seven or more medications while actively driving a motor vehicle.
About 20 percent of medications taken by elderly adults do not provide significant therapeutic benefits. Medications known as potentially inappropriate medications (PIMs) can raise injury risks for patients. Drugs that fall into this category typically include antidepressants, antihistamines, benzodiazepines, estrogens, muscle relaxants, and NSAIDs. These drugs are known to cause fatigue, mental confusion, blurred vision, and lack of coordination that can increase a driver’s risk of a traffic accident by as much as 300 percent.
Elderly drivers commonly take multiple prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs at the same time. Health studies show that many elderly adults take up to 12 medications each day to treat various medical conditions. In a AAA LongRoad study, 3,000 elderly drivers were evaluated by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and health researchers from Columbia University. Evaluation reports show that 73 percent of drivers were taking cardiovascular prescriptions and 70 percent were taking different types of stimulants, anti-anxiety drugs, and pain medications. All of these types of drugs can impair driving abilities.
Many elderly drivers are not made aware of their increased risks for traffic accidents and injuries due to the medications they take. The AAA study showed that less than 18 percent of participants received warnings about the dangers of taking certain medications while driving a vehicle. In addition, 34 percent of participants were prescribed drugs by more than one physician and were never warned of dangerous drug interactions that could raise thier risk of a crash.
According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NTSHA), over 3,500 senior drivers over age 65 were killed and another 200,000 drivers were injured in car crashes in 2016. With the baby boomer generation now reaching retirement age, there are 42 million drivers age 65 and older currently driving on U.S. roads and highways. An auto accident attorney is likely to see a rise in car crashes caused by medications and impaired driving.