As winter settles in, so does the unwelcome increase in colds and flu among the nation's drivers. But here's a cautionary note for those reaching for over-the-counter remedies: some common medications, including widely-used painkillers, could impair your ability to drive. In England, Scotland, and Wales, it's an offense to drive with specific levels of certain drugs in your bloodstream.
Convictions for drug-driving come with a minimum one-year ban and a criminal record. Vigilance is key, even with common prescription drugs. The penalties are serious—a potential unlimited fine, up to six months in prison, and a record of drug driving on your license for the next 11 years. Causing death by careless driving under the influence of drugs can lead to life imprisonment.
Take codeine, found in painkillers like Nurofen Plus. While it treats cold symptoms, it can induce drowsiness, dizziness, and even affect hearing—leading to confusion on the road.
If you're prescribed any of the following drugs, consult with your doctor before driving:
- amphetamine, for example dexamphetamine or selegiline
- morphine or opiate and opioid-based drugs, for example codeine, tramadol or fentanyl
Breaking the law may occur if driving while exceeding standard prescribed dosages or if their side effects impair your ability to drive safely, making it advisable to consult your local GP for clarity.
If you're convicted, expect increased insurance premiums, travel restrictions, and potential career consequences. Driving on prescription drugs is allowed only if prescribed and taken as advised, without impairing your ability to drive.
Ignoring the duty to inform the DVLA about medical conditions and prescriptions can result in fines up to £1,000.