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Some prescription meds are unsafe for older drivers

The risks of drunk driving are well known. Driving while impaired by medications, even if prescribed, is also illegal in Pennsylvania and increases the risks of car accidents. Almost 20 percent of older drivers are using medications that increase the risk of harm or have limited therapeutic benefit, according to recent research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

A record number of older drivers, 42 million, are now driving. These drivers are at least 65-years-old, and it is anticipated that they will soon constitute the largest number of drivers. In 2016, over 200,000 drivers in this age group suffered injuries and 3,500 died in car accidents.

An increasing number of these drivers are taking multiple medications and are unaware of the drug's ability to impair their driving. Thirty-four percent of older adults are prescribed medications by more than one doctor, with the possibility that they are taking drugs that improperly interact.

Benzodiazepines and first-generation antihistamines and other possibly inappropriate medications cause impairments, such as blurry vision, confusion, fatigue and incoordination. These medications, also known as PIMs1, may increase the risk of an accident by 300 percent. Among older drivers, the most common medications are cardiovascular prescriptions for treating heart and blood vessel conditions and central nervous system agents for treating the brain and other parts of the nervous system, such as pain medications, stimulants and anti-anxiety drugs.

The likelihood that an older driver will take an inappropriate medication increases with the number of medications they take. According to earlier research, less than 18 percent of older drivers claimed that their health care provider ever warned them about their prescription impairing their driving.

Impaired drivers may be liable for auto accident injuries. An attorney can help victims of these accidents pursue a lawsuit for compensation.

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