Medication cocktail on the road

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Driving ability is often limited by medication

Many older drivers regularly take medication - often even a regular medication cocktail. The German Road Safety Council (DVR) warns in a current press release that this can have a lasting impact on your ability to drive and, in case of doubt, result in loss of insurance protection.

Using a representative forsa survey, the DVR determined the drug consumption of older drivers and found that 67 percent of all drivers over the age of 65 regularly take medication. "In the over 75-year-olds, there are even 77 percent," continued the DVR. The majority of those questioned felt well informed about possible side effects that could affect their ability to drive and a large part (78 percent) would say that they would leave the car behind if drugs restrict their ability to drive. However, many only take their information from the package insert, which according to the DVR is not sufficient. Affected people should definitely seek a conversation with their family doctor, especially when taking several different medications, and should not take the wheel without prior medical advice, emphasized Burkhard Gerkens, consultant for older road users at the DVR.

Don't get behind the wheel without medical advice. In the forsa survey, 89 percent of older drivers taking medication stated that they wanted to know whether their medication impaired their ability to drive and “only one in ten (11 percent) does not” reports the DVR. Information on the possible impairments caused by the medicinal products can be found on the package insert, 73 percent of the respondents said they also had a conversation with their doctor and 26 percent asked about possible side effects when buying in the pharmacy. "In many cases, just studying the package insert is not enough," explained Gerkens. Above all, "caution is absolutely necessary for older patients who are taking several drugs at the same time", since "the drug cocktail can have unpredictable side effects", the DVR speaker continued. In such cases, patients should never drive a car without prior medical advice, because in the event of an accident, those affected risk their insurance cover, Gerkens emphasized.

Find a conversation with your family doctor To rule out possible impairment of your ability to drive by taking medication, the expert recommends talking to your family doctor. To make it easier for him to get an overview, it is helpful to "keep a book of all medications taken", especially since the patients are often prescribed several preparations by different doctors, explained Burkhard Gerkens. Before starting the journey, those affected should also ask themselves whether they are more tired than usual or whether their reactions are slower, Gerkens continues.

Medications with an influence on driving ability As an example of medications that can have an influence on driving ability, the DVR names "sleeping pills as well as sedatives and pain relievers." Furthermore, "drugs for the treatment of high blood pressure, heart diseases, gastrointestinal problems or depression reduce driving fitness, ”the DVR said. In addition, caution should also be exercised with some over-the-counter preparations, for example against allergies or colds. "Many of the drugs make you tired or slow down the processing of environmental stimuli", which means that reactions in road traffic are delayed or take place too late, reports the German Road Safety Council.

Age-related restrictions on the ability to drive In addition to the possible impairment of the ability to drive by taking medication, older drivers may also have general restrictions on the ability to drive, which may endanger road safety, according to the DVR. The experts therefore recommend regular health checks, in which “among other things, hearing, attention, reaction speed, mobility and the functions of the heart, liver and nervous system are checked”. According to the DVR, older drivers in particular should occasionally have their general ability to drive examined in this way. (fp)

Image: Th. Reinhardt /

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