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Most Older Drivers Unaware of Medications' Impact

August 12, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. --- According to a new study, 95 percent of respondents 55 and older have had at least one medical condition and 78 percent use one or more medications. However, only 28 percent indicated some awareness of the potential impact on driving performance that these medications can have. 

The study, released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, was conducted by the Center for Injury Sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. 

Few respondents (18 percent) had received a warning about potentially driver-impairing medications (e.g., ACE inhibitors, sedatives, and beta blockers) from a healthcare professional. Further, the study found that such warnings do not increase with growing numbers of medications or with growing numbers of medical conditions. 

Previous research indicates that use of medications that can potentially impair driving increase the risk of being in a crash. 

The age range was from 56 to 93, and the level of awareness of potentially driver-impairing medications decreased with age, while in contrast the number of prescription medications people were taking increased. Of those surveyed, 69 percent currently use one or more prescription medications that are potentially driver-impairing and 10 percent currently use five or more prescription medications that are potentially driver-impairing. 

"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." 

With the number of drivers 55 years of age and older expected to increase by more than half by 2030, this issue will only continue to grow unless measures are taken to increase awareness about medications that can impact safe driving.

"Seniors and their families need to be aware of health and wellness issues which can affect their ability to drive safely," said Kathleen Marvaso, AAA vice president of public affairs. "Using the tools and resources available at, you can identify and address these issues to help maintain lifelong safe mobility for you and those you love." 

For more information or to see the full report, visit


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