In Virginia, it is illegal to drive when you have consumed mind-altering substances. Most everyone understands that driving after throwing back a few beers or enjoying a few glasses of wine with your friends could lead to criminal charges. Fewer people seem to understand that legal drugs can also lead to impaired driving charges in Virginia.
Although the dangers of drugged driving are also well known, a surprising number of people assume that the rules about drugged driving only applied to those who use illegal drugs, like cocaine or heroin. In reality, even prescription and over-the-counter medication can cause someone to perform worse than they usually would at the wheel.
Lack of information and overconfidence lead to many people unnecessarily endangering others by getting behind the wheel after taking medications that make them unsafe drivers.
A wide range of medications can affect someone’s driving ability
The legality of a particular medication is not what leads to public risk but rather the impact of that medication on someone’s cognition, decision-making and reaction time. Any medication that negatively affects how long it takes you to respond or your ability to focus could lead to a preventable crash.
Plenty of legal prescriptions are illegal or dangerous to take before driving. If the medication has a warning about driving or operating heavy machinery on the vial dispensed by the pharmacist or on the paperwork provided by the doctor, then a driver could put others at unnecessary risk by driving after taking that drug.
Sleep aids, epilepsy medication and even psychiatric drugs are on the list of dangerous medications to take before getting behind the wheel.
Even over-the-counter medications can cause issues
There are medications that you don’t even need a prescription to possess that could severely affect someone’s driving skill. Cough medication and sleep aids are among the over-the-counter drugs that could drastically increase someone’s risk of getting into a serious crash.
Being legally able to buy or use a medication won’t excuse someone from the liability they have if they cause a crash. Understanding how medications affect your driving ability can help you make smarter decisions about when you get behind the wheel and about holding someone else accountable for a car crash they caused.