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How Medications Can Affect Driving

Two-thirds of senior drivers age 65 and older take five or more daily medications that can affect their ability to drive safely.

Prescription and over-the-counter medications come with warnings about possible side effects, such as drowsiness or risks related to driving, yet many people ignore them, because they’ve never had a problem. In addition, side effects for an individual drug can change when combined with other medications, especially new prescriptions.

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Medications known to impact driving include:

  • Tranquilizers
  • Narcotic pain pills
  • Sleep medicines
  • Some antidepressants
  • Cough medicines
  • Antihistamines
  • Decongestants

Developed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, Roadwise Rx is a free online tool designed to allow you to record your prescription and over-the-counter medications in one central location, and to receive personalized feedback about how drug side effects and interactions between medications may impact your ability to drive safely.



Let your doctor know about all over-the-counter medications you are taking, because some may interact with your prescription medication.

If you have more than one physician prescribing medications, make sure all of them know about all drugs you are taking, both prescribed and over-the-counter. Consider bringing all your medicines with you when visiting your doctor.

Read all labels and instructions on prescription and over-the-counter drugs to determine side effects and whether you should drive. Combinations of medicines can magnify their effects beyond the individual warnings.

There may be ways to minimize effects of some medicines on driving, such as taking a medicine at night instead of in the morning – but always check with your doctor before stopping or changing the times you take a medication.

It may be helpful to not drive for a few days until you get used to some medications. Again, check with your doctor or pharmacist.

Never drink and drive. Alcohol is a drug that impairs driving. Combining it with other drugs can exacerbate side effects and make impairment even worse. Don’t risk it.