driver taking a pill behind the wheel impaired drivingImpaired drivers continue to stalk Tennessee roads, and the problem goes far beyond drunk driving. A wide variety of legal and illegal substances can affect a driver's judgment, concentration, and reaction times. Since medications affect people in different ways, a driver could potentially get behind the wheel unaware that they are not fit to drive.

Medicines That Could Cause Accidental Driver Impairment

Side effects can occur in medications prescribed by a doctor and those that are available without a prescription. If individuals don't read warning labels or follow proper dosage instructions, they could suffer a reaction that puts everyone around them at risk.

Common medications that can impair driving ability include:

  • Over-the-counter medicines. Many drugs used to treat allergies or cold and flu symptoms contain ingredients that cause drowsiness, shortened attention span, and blurred vision. Herbal supplements are often thought to be "safe" alternatives to traditional medicines, but these substances can also cause adverse effects.
  • Antidepressants. People suffering from anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, or other mental health complications often rely on mood-altering medications to control their conditions. These drugs have been known to cause a "numb" feeling that may increase with the strength of the dose, affecting a patient's ability to respond quickly to road hazards.
  • Blood medications. Insulin to control blood sugar in patients with diabetes or blood thinners to prevent clots and strokes can cause lightheadedness or sudden loss of consciousness.
  • Mood stabilizers. Calming drugs such as Valium or Xanax may help a patient treat panic attacks, but it can also dull mental and physical reaction times. People who drive after taking mood-altering medications may not be able to adequately sense danger.
  • Heart medications. Drugs that control high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or other heart conditions can make patients less alert or more easily distracted while driving.
  • Muscle relaxers. Medications to prevent spasms in one muscle group often affect the entire body, while drugs used to treat seizures, Parkinson's disease, or musculoskeletal problems may make sudden reactions difficult.
  • Sleeping pills. Insomnia medications can cause a driver to fall asleep behind the wheel but can also cause slowed movement, inability to focus or pay attention, or even total waking amnesia (sleepwalking). Many of these medications warn against driving for several hours after taking the drug, as patients may get behind the wheel of a car without realizing it.
  • Multiple medications. People often take more than one kind of medicine at a time, increasing the risks of side effects and adverse reactions. In some cases, the combination of two (or more) medicines can cause deadly drug interactions.

How Illegal and Controlled Substances Affect Driving Ability

The use of illegal drugs is especially dangerous for drivers and the people around them. Both stimulants and sedatives have the potential to make a driver lose control of the vehicle, and these crashes are less likely to involve emergency evasive actions (such as swerving or braking).

Accidents may have severe consequences if the driver was using:

  • Marijuana. Marijuana affects the body in many different ways but commonly causes paranoia, dry eyes, and impaired memory and concentration. A person may also experience dizziness or rapid heart rate, making their movements more erratic.
  • Methamphetamines. Speed and other stimulants are often used by truck drivers who need to stay awake on long drives. These drugs are highly dangerous, affecting the functions of the brain and the body.
  • Cocaine. Cocaine may make a driver feel invincible, causing them to speed or take unnecessary risks. It also places a great strain on the heart, making it more likely that you will suffer a heart attack while driving.

Our car accident attorneys have seen firsthand the pain and suffering a driver under the influence can cause. That's why we offer free, no-obligation consultations with a proven personal injury attorney to help crash victims across Tennessee. To learn more about getting compensation after a car wreck, simply fill out our quick contact form or read through our Free Guide To Getting Your Doctor Bills Paid After a Car Crash.