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New Study Finds Prescription Drug Impaired Driving an Increasing Concern

December 28, 2014

Public awareness of the dangers associated with alcohol impaired driving is at an all-time high because of tougher DUI penalties, public service announcement campaigns and increased enforcement of drunk driving laws.  The liberalization of marijuana laws also has resulted in an increased focus on the potential relationship between decriminalization of marijuana and cannabis impaired driving.  Although car accidents caused by prescription and over-the-counter medications might receive less attention from the media, lawmakers and law enforcement agencies, a new study suggest that prescription medications might pose the greatest risk to those traveling our roadways.

According to the new study published in Public Health Reports, the increase in use of prescription and over-the-counter medication has impacted both the frequency of drugged driving and the demographics of this dangerous behavior.  The study found that drivers were more likely to test positive for drugs than twenty years ago and that an increasing number of drugged drivers are over the age of fifty.  This trend is even more concerning because drivers also are more prone to combine different medications or drugs and alcohol, which can substantially increase the degree of impairment.

Approximately one in eight drivers used more than one drug two decades ago, but the prevalence of drivers taking multiple drugs rose to one in five by 2010.  The percentage of drivers with two drugs in their system almost doubled during this period from 11.5 to 21.5 percent.  The author of the study noted that drivers also are more likely to combine alcohol and drugs.  For example, seventy percent of drivers who tested positive for cocaine and 55 percent of those who tested positive for marijuana also had alcohol in their system.

While illicit drugs, alcohol and prescription drugs all can cause impaired driving accidents, the study highlighted the danger posed by the trend toward “pill popping”.  According to the study, 6 in 10 drivers who used marijuana were under the age of thirty, but almost forty percent of prescription drug users were age fifty or older.  The authors suggest that the increased reliance of older people on medications that affect driving ability poses a cause for concern.  Approximately 90 percent of drivers 65 or over use prescription medications.  The authors also indicate that the average person takes 14,000 prescription pills by the age of 70.

Many people who take multiple medications with side effects that can impair their driving presume it is safe to drive if the medications are prescribed by a doctor.   The authors of the study emphasize the importance of doctors communicating the potential risk of driving while taking prescribed medications.  AAA also has warned of the risk of “polypharmacy”, which refers to taking multiple medications simultaneously.  According to the organization, multiple drugs that are combined often multiply the adverse side effects that adversely impact driving ability.

When a person causes an accident because of drug impairment, this can not only be the basis for imposing liability but also potentially justify punitive damages.  Anyone taking medications should avoid driving when taking a medication that comes with a warning not to drive.  If you are taking multiple medications, including both prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications, you should ask your doctor if it is safe to drive when combining the drugs.

Put Our Law Firm's Over 39 Years of Experience to Work For Your Case

If you or a family member has been injured in a car accident caused by a drugged driver, we might be able to help you pursue financial compensation for your injuries.  Our attorneys at Montlick and Associates have been representing those who suffer serious injuries throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast for over thirty years, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state.  No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333).  You can also visit us online at and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat. 


Category: Auto Accidents

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All information provided by our blogs is general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Consult a Montlick attorney for details about your unique situation.

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