A record 42 million adults ages 65 and older are driving in America today. This number is only expected to increase over the next decade, making them the largest driving population in the country. A significant portion of senior drivers are taking medications that can potentially impair their driving, likely without even knowing the risks.
New research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that nearly half of older drivers report using seven or more medications. Almost 20 percent are taking medications that the American Geriatrics Society recommends avoiding because of limited therapeutic benefits, excess risks, or both. Drugs like these, such as benzodiazepines and first-generation antihistamines, can cause blurred vision, confusion, fatigue or incoordination, and can increase a driver’s crash risk by up to 300 percent.
“There is a growing population of older drivers who use multiple medications and likely do not realize the impact these prescriptions may have on their driving,” said David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “This new research shows that the more medications an older driver takes, the more likely they are to use an inappropriate medication that can potentially cause driving impairment.”
Previous research from the AAA Foundation found that less than 18 percent of senior drivers learn from their health care providers how their prescriptions may impact their safety on the road. “Taking multiple medications affects all of us, but older drivers can be particularly vulnerable,” said Jake Nelson, AAA director of traffic safety advocacy and research. “Ask your doctor and pharmacist as many questions as necessary to ensure you understand why you need the medications prescribed to you, and how they can affect your driving. Don’t be afraid to question health care providers. It’s their job to help you. And the answers may just save your life.”
AAA urges older drivers and their families to be vigilant in understanding their medications and any impairing side effects before getting behind the wheel. To help in this, AAA offers Roadwise RX, a free tool that lists common side effects of prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications and herbal supplements. It also notifies users of interactions between these medications that can impact safety behind the wheel. Drivers who are looking to drive less often due to their medications can find resources for alternative transportation at SeniorDriving.AAA.com.
Read more about traffic safety concerns with The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.