Can Over-the-Counter Meds Cause Impaired Driving?

by Staff Blogger | September 19th, 2022

Driving while using over-the-counter (OTC) medications is a common occurrence. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recorded that 13% of daytime drivers tested positive for prescription or OTC medication in 2018. Drivers often mistakenly consider the effects of OTC medication harmless when it comes to driving ability. However, a 2020 study showed that those who used OTC sleep medications were 41.9% more likely to get into a car accident

If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident that you suspect was caused by another driver’s OTC medication use, it is crucial to understand how OTC medication impairs driving and seek help from a qualified attorney at Berg Injury Lawyers today.

How Over-the-Counter Meds Can Impair Driving

After taking an OTC medication, some people experience side effects, which are mild to moderate adverse reactions caused by the medication. Some side effects are uncomfortable, but others are not always obvious.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, common medication side effects include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Blurry vision
  • Clumsiness, impaired coordination
  • Slowed reaction times
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Restlessness

Even mild side effects of OTC medication use can have dangerous or devastating consequences when behind the wheel. In 2015, 90,000 of all reported car accidents in the U.S. involved a tired or drowsy driver. 33,000 of those crashes caused serious injuries.

What Over-the-Counter Meds Cause Impairment?

Many OTC medications can cause side effects that impair driving, posing a risk on the road. Common OTC medications that can cause difficulty driving include:

  • Antihistamines (e.g., Benadryl, Allegra)
  • Cold or cough medication
  • Sleep aids (e.g., Melatonin, Valerian)
  • Antidiarrheal medications
  • Anti-nausea or motion sickness medications (e.g., Dramamine)
  • Caffeine pills
  • Diet pills
  • CBD products

A medication’s most common side effects are typically listed on the packaging or a leaflet inside the box. Every medication has different side effects; some side effects last longer than others or become more severe if the drug is taken alongside other medications or alcohol.

If an OTC medication can have hazardous side effects, it will contain a warning on the label, leaflet, and packaging. The label may say to avoid operating heavy machinery, which includes driving a car: cars are considered a form of heavy machinery, and driving could put you and others at risk.

Can I Be Sued for Driving on Over-the-Counter Drugs?

You can be sued for driving while under the influence of OTC drugs. Every U.S. state, including California, includes OTC medication in their DUI laws. If you experience side effects from OTC medication and get into a collision. As a result, you are still considered at fault, and the injured party can file suit against you for injury or damages.

When to Avoid Driving After Taking Over-the-Counter Drugs

It isn’t always possible to judge your driving ability under the influence of OTC drugs. You may not recognize your level of impairment, putting you at greater risk of a car accident. Instead, watch for early signals that you or a loved one may not be in a position to drive.

Some signs that you shouldn’t drive include:

  • Yawning excessively
  • Trouble staying awake; “dozing off” periodically
  • Reacting slowly
  • Forgetting things easily
  • Difficulty concentrating on things around you
  • Losing focus or “zoning out” often
  • Poor coordination

If you show these symptoms, finding an alternative to driving is the safest choice. Ask somebody else to drive you, rideshare with Uber or Lyft, order delivery instead of going out, or wait to drive until the medication has worn off. Driving under the influence of OTC drugs can lead to a car accident and a costly lawsuit.

Contact a Car Accident Attorney for a Free Consultation

If you’ve been in a car accident and aren’t sure what the next steps are, you’re not alone. When over-the-counter or prescription drugs may have been at fault, it’s important to seek help from a qualified legal defense team.

Our California car crash lawyers team can provide legal counsel, closely review your case and help you get the defense or payout you deserve. Contact us today to set up a private free consultation.