The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Fleet Safety Tip of the Week

October 26, 2011

Since flu season is approaching, this is a good time to remind your drivers to be mindful of how medication side effects can affect their ability to drive safely. 

Both prescription and over-the-counter medicines can have side effects that impair driving. Those side effects can include loss of concentration, blurry vision, loss of depth perception, fatigue, excitedness, slowed reaction time and a whole range of other symptoms.

Drivers need to use such medications responsibly so that driver safety is never compromised. Here are some facts and advice, provided by, that drive home that point:

Taking sedating antidepressants even 10 hours before driving is equal to driving drunk. 

10 mg of Valium can cause greater driving impairment than a blood alcohol concentration of 0.1 (at or above the legal limit in all states). 

Antihistamines, which block allergic reactions, slow down reaction time and impair coordination. 

Over-the-counter decongestants can cause drowsiness, anxiety and dizziness. Drowsy driving is responsible for an estimated 100,000 traffic crashes and about 1,500 deaths every year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Common prescription drugs (including medications to treat allergies, pain, diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol, ulcers, depression, anxiety disorders, and insomnia) can cause drowsiness, affect vision and other skills that can be serious hazards on the road.

Tranquilizers, sedatives and sleeping pills slow down the central nervous system, causing drowsiness and diminished reaction time. They also impair the ability to concentrate. 

Over-the-counter drugs such as cold and cough medicines, antihistamines, drugs to prevent nausea or motion sickness, pain relievers, decongestants and diuretics can cause drowsiness or dizziness that can impair a driver's skills and reflexes. 

Some drugs may make you feel alert and confident in your driving. But the reality of the situation may be quite different. Drugs can fool you into believing you are in control of your driving when you are, in fact, impaired.

Here is a partial list of legal drugs that can -- in the right amount -- impair someone’s ability to drive.  

Anti-anxiety medication




Narcotic pain medications

Allergy medicines

Blood sugar medicines



Blood pressure medicines

Motion sickness medication

Ulcer medication


Anti-seizure medicines


Anti-nausea medicine


Cough syrups

Alcohol-containing medicines

Caffeine-containing medicines


Drivers need to partner with their physician and pharmacist to learn all they can about their medication's side effects, and what drugs are usually safe to combine -- especially behind the wheel.

Drivers, never take more than the prescribed dose, or take anyone else's medicine. Ask for non-sedating forms of your prescriptions if you will be driving. Allow your body time to adjust to new medications before you drive. Most importantly, make sure you know the signs and symptoms of being drug impaired before you start driving.


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