Don’t Confuse Legal with Safe
Over-the-counter (OTC) medications can impact the body in much the same way as illegal drugs and alcohol. The fact that you can purchase the medication directly from a store shelf gives the illusion that it is safe. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns that allergy medications could affect driving.
Over-the-Counter Drugs Often Have Dangerous Side Effects
In addition to allergy medications, you should also be aware of the affects of other types of OTC medications, including diet pills, sleep aids and drugs that treat symptoms of cold, flu and pain. Potential side effects of OTC medications that put you at increased auto accident risk include:
- Sleepiness or drowsiness
- Dizziness and light-headedness
- Blurred vision
- Slowed movements and delayed response
- Lack of concentration and focus
- Nausea and stomach upset
You Can’t Rely on Packaging to Know What’s Safe
People typically take over-the-counter drugs with no medical oversight. Yet, these drugs can have potent side effects, especially when taken at higher doses than recommended. However, the doses the manufacturers recommend for an adult do not take into account weight and tolerance levels, even though a 100-pound woman who rarely takes medications is likely to feel the effects at lower doses than a 200-pound man who regularly takes the OTC drug. Certain medical conditions or interactions with other medications may also affect rate of metabolism of the OTC drug.
Recommended doses may, therefore, make driving unsafe. The drug labels advise you to not operate heavy machinery until you know how the drug affects you. But you may not realize how much the medication does affect you, especially while you are under the influence of the medication and feeling unwell because of the underlying allergy, cold or pain.
Texas Law Does Not Protect Innocent Drivers
As long as the driver takes the medication as indicated, driving after taking an OTC drug is rarely if ever punished under Texas law. Tests to measure the amount of OTC meds aren’t usually administered unless there is a serious accident or death. Even then, driving while under the influence of legal doses of OTC and prescription drugs do not often result in criminal penalties. Texas law imposes a presumption that at .08 blood alcohol concentration (BAC) the driver is impaired. No such presumptive limit exists when it comes to OTC or prescription drugs, leaving the matter up to interpretation and discretion.
FDA Tips for Taking OTC and Driving
The FDA recommends that consumers should:
- Read warning labels and follow directions on the medications you buy
- Avoid mixing antihistamines with alcohol, sedatives or tranquilizers, which can increase drowsiness
- Recognize that you may experience a delayed sedating effect, even as late as the day after you take an antihistamine
One more tip: Do not drive after taking allergy medications or any OTC drug that may impair driving abilities. Why take the risk?
Recover After a Dallas-Fort Worth Car Accident
If you were injured by a driver impaired by legal drugs or for any other reason, call Bill Berenson at 817-885-8000 or toll-free at 1-888-801-8585 to schedule your free case evaluation. We can help you recover the compensation you’re entitled to.