How Prescription Medications Impair Driving

The vast majority of Americans take at least one kind of prescription medication. People may take medications to treat everything from lingering back pain after an accident to medications to treat high blood pressure, while others may rely on medications to cope with symptoms of a mental illness, like bipolar disorder or severe anxiety. When legally prescribed and responsibly taken, medications help people manage their symptoms and stay healthy. However, side effects of some medications may hinder a person’s ability to drive, causing them to be a greater risk of being injured—or injuring someone else—in a car accident.

Dangerous and Distracting Side Effects

As you know if you take a medication or if you’re seen a commercial for medications on TV, many come with a long list of potential side effects. Side effects may arise in the early days of taking a new medication, when someone’s body is still adjusting to the medication, or might also occur when someone uses more than one medication, as certain medications may negatively interact with each other. Side effects vary depending on the medication and a person’s health, but some common prescription medication side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness and fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Hives and other rashes
  • Eye problems, such as blurred vision
  • Changes in mental health

How Medications Influence Car Accidents

When someone experiences side effects like these, it may impact their ability to drive. For example, side effects like intense nausea or a painful, itching rash may distract a driver when they’re trying to pay attention to the roads. Drowsiness is a particularly dangerous side effect when it comes to driving, as tired drivers may have a slowed reaction time, be less alert, or even fall asleep at the wheel. While driving with a prescribed medication might not seem as dangerous as drunk or drugged driving and it may not be the intent of the driver to cause harm, issues such as these can still lead to dangers on the roads.

Who is Liable?

In most cases when legally prescribed drugs contributed to an accident, some of the liability for a medication-related car accident likely falls on the person taking the medication. They should be aware of any side effects and how those side effects affect them, and should make responsible decisions. For example, if someone knows that their medication makes them drowsy, they should plan ahead and make sure they are not taking that medication before driving. If they know a medication is likely to contribute to risky behavior but still take that risk, they might be responsible for their own behavior.

In other cases, their physicians or other medical provider might be partially liable. For this to occur, the medical provider would need to negligently omit necessary information. For example, if a doctor didn’t tell a patient that their anti-anxiety pills would react badly with their blood pressure medication, the doctor could be liable for any harm that occurs. When an incident like this occurs, it may fall under medical malpractice.

Safe Driving with Prescription Medications

Many factors can play into an accident caused by medication. However, people can take some small steps to keep themselves and others safe, particularly on the roads. If you are taking any kind of medication, you should:

  • Understand how the medication and any side effects influence your ability to drive or perform other tasks
  • Talk to your doctor about any concerns about your medication
  • Avoid making any changes to your medical routine, like lowering your dosage, without consulting your doctor
  • Ask for help with transportation if you are feeling unwell or unable to drive

Medications play a critical role in many people’s lives, but it’s important to still be aware of the dangers of side effects to keep everyone safe on the roads!


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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