FLORHAM PARK—According to a new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the majority of drivers 55 and older are unaware that certain prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications can affect driving ability.
Ninety-five percent of respondents have had at least one medical condition and 78 percent currently use at least one medication. However, only 28 percent indicated some awareness of the medication’s potential impact on driving performance.
Few respondents (18 percent) had received a warning about potential 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 multiple medications or medical conditions. Previous research indicates that the use of a single potentially driver-impairing drug or multiple medications increases the risk of being in a crash.
The age range of respondents was 56 to 93. The awareness level of potentially driver-impairing medications decreased with age, while in contrast, the number of prescription medications taken increased. Of those surveyed, 69 percent currently use at least one potentially driver-impairing prescription medications. Ten percent use at least five prescription drugs that could impair driving.
“Healthcare professionals need to educate their patients about certain potentially driver-impairing medications to help them make safe driving decisions,” said Michele Mount, director of public affairs for Florham Park-based AAA New Jersey. “One of our goals is to help older drivers stay mobile for as long as safely possible, so we must do a better job of educating them on known risks, such as the side effects of medications.”
It’s estimated one in four drivers will be 65 and older by 2030. This issue will continue to grow unless measures are taken now to increase awareness about the combination of medications and driving.
“Seniors and their families need to be aware of health issues that can affect their loved one’s ability to drive safely,” continued Mount. “The tools and resources found on AAASeniors.com can help families identify and address these issues.”
To view the full report, visit AAAFoundation.org.
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