A large majority of drivers over the age of 55 are taking one or more medications, yet most are unaware of the potential negative impact on driving performance that can be accompany their use, according to a study released today by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
Ninety five percent of respondents 55 and older have had one or more medical conditions treated with drugs and 78% use one or more medications, but only 28% said they were aware problems that might be encountered while driving.
The AAA Foundation commissioned the University of Alabama at Birmingham to conduct a survey of 630 adults age 55 and older in Alabama. The age range in the study was from 56 to 93 years old, and the level of awareness of potentially driver impairing medications decreased with age, as the number of prescription medications people were taking increased. Of those surveyed, 69% currently use one or more prescriptions that are potentially driver impairing, and 10% currently use five or more prescriptions that might be harmful to operating a motor vehicle.
Few respondents (18%) had received a warning about potentially driver impairing medications (for example ACE inhibitors, sedatives, and beta blockers) from a healthcare professional. Further, the study found that such warnings do not increase with increasing numbers of medications or with increasing numbers of medical conditions.
Previous research indicates that use of a single potentially driver impairing medication as well as use of multiple medications increases the risk of being in an accident.
“Health care professionals need to educate patients about their potentially driver impairing medications to help them make safe driving decisions” said AAA Foundation President and CEO Peter Kissinger. “One of our goals is to help older drivers stay mobile as long as safely possible; so, it is imperative that we do a better job of educating drivers on known risks, such as the side-effects of medications.”