New online database developed to combat dangers of driving while medicated

February 2, 2010

A new study suggests that the majority of older drivers take one or more medications, but that few of them are aware of the effects that these medications can have on their driving ability.

For the study, which was conducted by researchers from the University of Alabama and released as a report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 630 drivers between the ages of 56 and 93 were interviewed.

Of those interviewed, 78% were taking one or more medications. However, only 28% of them knew about the potential risks of driving while medicated. Also, of the respondents takings medication known to impair driving ability, only 18% were warned of the risk by their doctor or pharmacist.

According to the results of the study, use of prescription drugs increases with age while the awareness of the risks of driving while medicated decreases.

Peter Kissinger, president and chief of the AAA Foundation, notes that the problem of impaired medicated driving is only likely to worsen as our population ages and the use of multiple prescriptions becomes more prevalent.

To help combat this problem, the AAA Foundation has created Roadwise RX. The free website will include a searchable database listing the effects that drugs, whether taken alone or in combination, have on a person’s driving ability. Users can customize the information they receive by inputting information such as age and weight.

According to the AAA Foundation, the database is intended to serve as a tutorial for individuals who have only a general understanding of the impaired driving risks associated with the medicine they take. Roadwise RX will explain potential side effects and drug interactions in simple, everyday language. Both prescription and over-the-counter medications will be included in the database.

The web-based resource is set to go live in early 2010.

There have been multiple studies linking certain drugs and drug combinations to an increased risk of auto accidents. While the link between certain medications and impaired driving is not questioned, what is unclear is exactly how many car accidents are caused by drivers who are impaired by a medication. Except for cases involving alcohol, there is no routine testing for drugs in a driver’s system after a motor vehicle collision.

For more on the study and the effects of medication on driving, see this NY Times blog entry. To learn more about Roadwise RX, see this release from the AAA Foundation.

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