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How To Drive Legally & Safely While Taking Prescription Drugs

Safety charity confirms how to take prescription and over-the-counter medication without falling foul of the law

IAM RoadSmart drug-drive safety tips

Drivers which take prescription and over-the-counter medicines which impair performance behind the wheel break the law and face bans, IAM RoadSmart emphasised. The road safety charity – that strives to minimise casualties via a range of initiatives – therefore confirmed how to stay legal, stay safe, and stay healthy.

Speak to a medical professional such as a doctor or pharmacist. Confirm how/if a drug impairs performance. It is harder to concentrate, perhaps. Furthermore, refer to the documents which accompany the medication. Follow the advice.

Never drive if performance is below par. It is not worth the risk. Favour alternatives such as taxis or public transport. “Do not risk your or other lives by driving when your concentration or reactions are impaired”, IAM RoadSmart said.

Do not stop taking medication for fear of losing prowess behind the wheel. Instead, research whether there is an alternative that has less impact on (say) reaction time. “This tip may seem obvious but some motorists may choose the convenience and luxury of driving over health”, IAM explained.

Recognise that certain untreated medical conditions and allergies hinder performance. Itchy streaming eyes caused by hay fever make driving hazardous, for example – as does any associated sneezing fit. “Manage your symptoms and avoid driving when they are at their worst”, the experts suggested.

Monitored prescription drugs and punishments

Government said that driving having taken an excess of certain prescription medicines – that have not been prescribed by a professional to benefit your health – is an offence. The drugs are:

  • amphetamine, e.g. dexamphetamine or selegiline
  • clonazepam
  • diazepam
  • flunitrazepam
  • lorazepam
  • methadone
  • morphine or opiate and opioid-based drugs, e.g. codeine, tramadol or fentanyl
  • oxazepam
  • temazepam

The punishment for falling foul includes:

  • minimum one year driving ban
  • unlimited fine
  • up to six months imprisonment
  • criminal record
  • license confirms conviction for eleven years

If, however, such a substance has been prescribed it is not an offence to drive - even if the quantity in your system is sufficient to prosecute those that have not been prescribed it. This assumes that your performance behind the wheel is to standard. 

Legislation strives to improve safety

IAM RoadSmart Head of Driving and Riding Standards, Richard Gladman, explained: “The legislation in relation to driving with prescription drugs is there for all of our protection.”

“More so than any other impairment, drivers find themselves falling foul of the effects of their prescribed medication by making a decision to take a chance. It is often through lack of knowledge that they find themselves in such a position”, Mr Gladman revealed.