How Do Different Prescription Medications Affect Your Driving?

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By the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Knox Law Center in Charlotte & Lake Norman

Most of us know that drinking alcohol or taking illegal drugs can impair our ability to drive and massively heighten the risk of a car crash. Fewer of us realize that certain prescription drugs can have an equally harmful effect on our driving abilities–and that’s dangerous. In North Carolina, not only are drivers who take certain prescription drugs at a higher risk of a car crash, but they’re also at risk of a DWI charge.

If you’re taking prescription drugs – and according to WebMed about 55 percent of us are–educate yourself on the potential effects of your medication before you get behind the wheel.


When allergies have you sniffing, sneezing, or wheezing, or you can’t stop rubbing your itchy eyes, it’s hard to think of anything but getting relief. Medications containing antihistamines can get rid of most of these symptoms, but they can also make you feel sleepy, diminish your concentration, and slow your reaction times, putting you at greater risk when driving.


About one in six Americans takes antidepressants such as Prozac, Paxil or Zoloft, and many people drive while under the influence of these drugs. Although it’s generally considered safe to drive when taking antidepressants, some studies indicate that the people who take antidepressants have more difficulty concentrating and reacting quickly when behind the wheel. Other side effects include dizziness, blurred vision, and insomnia. An AAA study found that certain antidepressants can increase a risk of a crash by as much as 41 percent.

Sedatives and Tranquilizers

In our anxious and sleep-deprived society, many people turn to tranquilizers, such as Xanax or Valium, and sedatives such as Ambien. These types of prescription drugs often come with side effects such as drowsiness, memory problems, lack of balance, reduced reaction time, and muscle weakness. Motorists under the influence of these drugs sometimes have difficulty in maintaining lane position, neglect roadside instructions, and–with Ambien in particular–may drive erratically.

Pain Medications

Prescription pain medications come in a range of forms and potencies, and each kind may affect people differently. Some people might be able to drive without difficulty, while others may feel drowsy, confused, lightheaded or visually impaired. Several studies have suggested that driving while under the influence of opioids is associated with a higher risk of car crashes.

Cough Medications

When you can’t stop coughing, your doctor may prescribe a strong cough suppressant. Be careful when driving when taking this, however, because they may contain codeine or hydrocodone. These powerful narcotics can cause dizziness, sleepiness, sluggishness and other symptoms that could cause you to drift off at the wheel or reduce your concentration and lead to a crash.

Take Precautions on Prescription Medications

Whenever on prescription medication, reduce the change of getting into a car accident by strictly following your prescribed your dosage, paying attention to symptoms that could affect your driving, and never mixing prescription drugs with alcohol.

Reduce The Risks Of Prescription DWI

If you do become involved in a North Carolina car accident in which prescription drugs were a factor, call our experienced Charlotte auto accident attorneys as soon as possible to understand your rights and recover fair compensation.

The attorneys at Knox Law Center have been providing effective DWI criminal defense services for decades in Mecklenburg county and Charlotte, NC. Our attorneys can help navigate the confusing and expensive process of clearing a DWI charge from your name, reinstating your driving privileges and generally putting the criminal charges behind you. Give our Charlotte DWI lawyers a call today to learn more about your options.

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