Taking Multiple Medications Can Increase Crash Risk for Older Drivers

Motorists should take steps to understand medications and how they impact driving

2018 LongROAD Infographic

Nearly 50 percent of older adults report using seven or more medications while remaining active drivers, according to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.  Currently, a record 42 million adults aged 65 and older are driving, which is expected to increase substantially over the next decade and may make them the largest driving population.  AAA encourages older drivers to ask their doctors and pharmacists as many questions as necessary to ensure they understand why they need the medications prescribed to them, and how they can affect their driving. 

“With more older drivers on the road, it’s alarming that many motorists may not be aware of the impact their medications may have on their driving,” says Theresa Podguski, director of legislative affairs for AAA East Central.  “Driving can become even more challenging when multiple medications are mixed together, so it’s important to completely understand how your medications interact with each other.”

The AAA Foundation along with researchers from Columbia University and the University of California, San Diego evaluated medication reports from nearly 3,000 older drivers participating in the AAA LongROAD study.  Researchers found that the most commonly reported medications used by older drivers affect driving ability and increase crash risk.  These medications include:

  • Cardiovascular prescriptions: Treating heart and blood vessel conditions (73 percent)
  • Central nervous system agents (CNS) prescriptions: Treating parts of the nervous system, such as the brain, and includes pain medications (non-narcotics and narcotics), stimulants and anti-anxiety drugs (70 percent)

Previous research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that fewer than 18 percent of older drivers report ever receiving a warning from their health care provider about how their prescriptions impact their safety on the road.  Additional data from the American Society of Health System Pharmacists shows that 34 percent of older adults are prescribed medications by more than one doctor, possibly bypassing opportunities to check how the new prescription may interact with other medications being used.

AAA urges older adults and their families to be vigilant in understanding the types of medications prescribed to them and have a strong grasp on any potential impairing side effects before getting behind the wheel.  Drivers should:

  • Come Prepared: Write down any vitamins, supplements and prescribed or over-the-counter medications you take, and bring that list with you to every medical appointment.
  • Ask Questions: Share that medications list with your healthcare providers at each appointment, and ask about potential side effects or interactions that could affect your driving.
  • Discuss Alternatives: Risks can often be reduced by taking alternative medications, changing the doses or the timing of the doses to avoid conflicts with safe driving.

To learn more about their medications, drivers can use AAA’s Roadwise Rx. It’s a free, online tool to help drivers and their families understand common side effects of prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications and herbal supplements.  It also flags interactions between these medications that can impact safety behind the wheel.  Print the free list and report, then discuss the confidential results with your doctor or pharmacist to learn how to mitigate possible crash risks.  Drivers seeking additional ways to stay mobile or looking to drive less often due to their medications can find resources for alternative transportation at SeniorDriving.AAA.com.

About LongROAD: Recognizing that lifestyle changes, along with innovative technologies and medical advancements will have a significant impact on the driving experiences of the baby boomer generation, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has launched a ground-breaking, multi-year research program to more fully understand the driving patterns and trends of older drivers in the United States.  The AAA LongROAD (Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers) study is one of the largest and most comprehensive senior driver databases available on senior drivers incorporating 2,990 participants being followed for five years.  It will support in-depth studies of senior driving and mobility to better understand risks and develop effective countermeasures.

About AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety: Established in 1947 by AAA, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a not-for-profit, publicly funded, 501(c)(3) charitable research and educational organization.  The AAA Foundation’s mission is to prevent traffic deaths and injuries by conducting research into their causes and by educating the public about strategies to prevent crashes and reduce injuries when they do occur.  This research is used to develop educational materials for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users. Visit www.AAAFoundation.org.

AAA East Central is a not-for-profit association with 80 local offices in Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia serving 2.7 million members.  News releases are available at news.eastcentral.aaa.com.  Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

For More Information, Contact:
Jim Garrity, Public & Community Relations Manager
Desk: 412-365-7274 / Cell: 412-905-9021 / Email: Garrity.James@aaaec.com

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