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You're about to drive home from holiday when you become ill. A doctor prescribes drugs that are likely to affect your driving. What should you do? You're about to drive home from holiday when you become ill. A doctor prescribes drugs that are likely to affect your driving. What should you do?

  • Possible answers:

     
  • A. Only drive if someone is with you

  • B. Avoid driving on motorways

  • C. Get someone else to drive

  • D. Never drive at more than 30 mph

 
 

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Driving after taking medication

We all know that it’s illegal to drive after taking illicit drugs, but what about after taking medicine for the flu? If it’s something you can buy at a Boots, is it something you can be prosecuted for taking.

The rules are actually the same: it is illegal to drive if your driving is impaired by legal or illegal drugs. Driving is a skill that requires a lot of coordination and judgement, and one where if you get it wrong you can end someone’s life.

The police can stop you and do a field impairment assessment which is a series of tests as shown in this video. The first is pupil size, the second is the Romberg test, the third is the walk and turn test (nine steps forwards and nine steps back), the fourth is the one-leg stand which checks the driver’s balance, and the final test is the finger-to-nose test.

If you don’t pass these tests the the police will arrest you and take you to the station where you will be tested. If the test is positive the consequences are severe:

The consequences of a drug drive conviction are far reaching and can include:

How are medicines used

You could well be taking a legal medication for any of these reasons:

You could have bought your medication over the counter or you could have been prescribed it by a doctor. If you buy it over the counter then you will need to check the label to see whether you can drive after taking it. If you are prescribed the medication from a doctor, the doctor will usually tell you, but you should still also check yourself. Some medications can cause dizziness, nausea, inability to concentrate, delayed reactions, fainting, stomach cramps and a reduction in spatial awareness and coordination.

Combinations of medications can have a magnifying effect on symptoms and this includes herbal supplements.

Can you drive after taking medication?

If your medication specifically forbids you from driving then you must not drive. If your medication doesn’t forbid you to drive but you are so sick that you would be a danger to other motorists then you must not drive. If you take any medication and it makes you feel impaired – light-headed, ‘spaced out’, dizzy or weak, or have restricted vision, hearing or reaction time – then you must not drive. This might occur even with medications that are not marked as being unsafe to drive with as your body could have its own reaction to the medication.

What do ask your doctor

When you get any medication make sure you ask your doctor the following questions:

If you rely on driving for a living, i.e. your job requires that you drive, make your doctor aware of it.

A general list of medications that are likely to prevent you from driving

Alternatives to driving

If you can’t drive here are some options for getting around: