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Drugs Have Negative Impact On Older Drivers

Jenny Decker RN's picture

A beloved grandparent gets in the car insisting he is driving down to the local grocery store. Two of the small grandchildren beg him to take them along. He is delighted. The children’s mom and the grandmother think nothing of the situation. Grandpa has been taking some blood pressure medications that his doctor gave him just two day earlier. Older drivers’ drug risks are enormous, yet no one in the health care community has bothered to educate the grandparent or his family.

The drug risks for older drivers are profound. In a study released today by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, it was found that 95 percent of respondents in their study who were 55 or older had at least one medical condition. More than one medical condition makes it more likely that the person will have several medications. The risks from these drugs put both the driver and anyone else on the road in danger.

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The sad thing here is that only 28 percent of those with a medical condition knew that taking medications had an impact on their driving performance. Even less than that had received a warning from a health care professional. The study also found the shocking fact that with the increase in number of medications, warnings did not increase. The drug risks to older drivers then compound, with not only side effects of each drug, but with how each drug interacts with other medications that person is taking.

It is important for health care professionals to educate patients about the medications they are taking. According to AAA Foundation President and CEO Peter Kissinger, “health care professionals need to educate patients about their potentially driver impairing medications to help them make safe driving decisions.” Thus, the drug risks for older drivers can be minimized and avoid any potential tragedies.

Family members should be educated as well. Family members can be a big support for the older driver. In order for both the older driver and family to know about the drug risks, knowing the types of medications that can be potential problems is essential. These drugs include blood pressure medications and any type of sedative. It is wise to ask your healthcare provider about any drug that may impact an older driver and their ability to drive. More resources and tools available on drug risks to older drivers can be found at AAASeniors.com.

Sources: AAA