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May 26, 2024

Prescription Drugs and Driving

May 26, 2024

Americans are more reliant than ever on prescription drugs. According to a Consumer Reports survey, 55 percent of adults regularly take at least one prescription medication — and many consume a veritable cocktail of drugs every day.

These substances ease chronic pain and boost mental health, but they can also be a recipe for disaster on the road.

Below, we outline a few of the most common types of prescription medications and the risks they pose behind the wheel.


Prescription Drugs and DrivingThe current opioid crisis has been deemed an epidemic, but overdoses aren’t alone in prompting fatalities. Experts believe that the health consequences of our reliance on prescription opioids are far-reaching.

For example, A Columbia University analysis of 37,000 drivers in fatal accidents found that over 7 percent tested positive for prescription opioids in 2015. This signified a huge leap since 1995 when just 1 percent of drivers tested positive.

The study’s principal investigator Guohua Li explained that prescription opioids impair cognitive function and make patients drowsy. Concerned experts believe that prescription opioids can be just as deadly as alcohol behind the wheel.

Unfortunately, these medications are also far more difficult to regulate, as the same dosage can cause radically different levels of impairment from one person to the next. Additionally, these drugs remain in patients’ bodies for varying amounts of time.

Benzos and Barbiturates

A class of drugs known as sedative-hypnotics can significantly increase car accident risk. Examples of drugs from this class include Ambien (a common sleep medication) and Butisol.

An analysis of accident statistics led by the University of Washington’s Ryan Hansen found that those who took sleeping aids such as Ambien were between 25 and 33 percent more likely to get into an accident.

Stimulant Medications

In the right context, medications such as Adderall and Vyvanse can actually reduce the risk of car accidents. A notable study found that accidents decreased dramatically among ADHD patients who took prescribed medications to manage symptoms such as inattentiveness and impulsivity.

Stimulant medications intended for individuals with ADHD may reduce car crash risk when taken as prescribed — but in other circumstances, these substances can lead to deadly accidents.

For example, a driver charged in a fatal New Jersey collision is believed to have taken ten doses of Adderall in the 24 hours leading up to the crash. This excessive combination of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine prevented him from getting the sleep he needed to safely operate a vehicle.


Once frowned upon, marijuana is now generally viewed in a positive or at least neutral light. A recent study from Yahoo News and The Marist Poll reveals that 52 percent of American adults have at least tried marijuana — and 49 percent support legalization for recreational purposes. Surveys of high school seniors and college administrators reveal that students increasingly view marijuana as safe.

While experts disagree as to the safety of marijuana on a recreational basis, it’s abundantly clear that intoxication behind the wheel is dangerous.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), states such as Colorado have seen a small, but significant uptick in insurance claims.

This could be a matter of correlation versus causation, but if marijuana usage behind the wheels is in fact rising, there’s cause for concern.

Experts believe that marijuana impacts coordination and reaction time. Drivers under the influence struggle to maintain safe speeds and take longer to respond in emergency situations.

Americans overwhelmingly support medical marijuana, but what happens when the use of this alternative medication impacts drivers behind the wheel? Whether marijuana is prescribed or used recreationally, it’s dangerous for drivers.

Steps to Take After a Car Accident

Do you suspect that prescription medications or other substances played a role in your car accident? Gather as much evidence from the scene of the crash as possible.

Take pictures, exchange contact information, and jot down your observations — especially if the other driver appears to be impaired. This information could prove critical as you strive for personal injury damages.

The most important reason to report this person who may be impaired is so that you can prevent this type of behavior in the future. People can die as a result of the poor judgment of an impaired driver.

Prompt police intervention is critical. Law enforcement officials who suspect impairment as a factor in the crash may order screening via blood or urine tests. These results may constitute irrefutable evidence in court.

A trusted personal injury attorney can help you prove that the other party’s use of vehicles under the influence of problematic medications constitutes negligence. Get in touch with Smiley Law Firm as soon as possible to discuss your case. Call 504-434-7700 today to learn more

Learn More From Smiley Law Firm’s Injury Blog

Here at Smiley Law Firm, we write about the topic of wrongful death extensively. As personal injury attorneys, we believe in educating our clients and the public with the most up to date information available.

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