All You Need To Know About Driving While On Medication

Driving car

Driving is something that most people do every single day, and with such regular repetition, it can start to feel like quite a mundane, basic activity. We can get so used to driving as a part of our daily routine that we start to forget just how risky it can be if you lose focus behind the wheel or let your concentration levels slip for just an instant.

Even the slightest lapse in focus can lead to disastrous consequences while driving, and this is why driving under the influence of alcohol or illicit substances is illegal all over the globe. But what about prescription medication or over the counter pills? Is it safe to drive while using them?

Well, the answers to these questions can be a little difficult to decipher at times, and many people aren’t quite sure about the exact rules regarding driving while on medication. This guide will tell you all you need to know, including the risks of driving while on medication, which medications are not recommended for drivers, and what to do if you need to drive while also taking medicine.

The Risks of Driving While on Medication

A lot of medications, including both prescription and over the counter medications, come with a risk of side effects. Not everyone will notice these side effects. In fact, many people take medicines all the time without feeling any of the listed side effects on the label, but the risk is always present, and some medications will have things like drowsiness, fatigue, loss of focus, slower reaction times, or nausea as potential effects.

All of these listed side effects, along with several others, could affect you while you try to drive. If you start losing focus or suffering from slower reactions, for example, you might not notice a car pulling out in front of you or you might not be able to brake in time to avoid an accident or stop at a red light.

It’s easy to see, therefore, how driving while taking certain medications could lead to some nasty accidents, putting yourself, your passengers, and other drivers on the road around you in jeopardy. There are even laws in many states and regions that could lead to severe punishments if you are caught operating a vehicle after taking certain medications.

Which Medications Can Cause Problems?

There are many medications that might lead to possible side effects that could hamper your driving ability, and some of them might surprise you. Obviously, medications like sleeping pills and tranquilizers are not recommended to be taken before getting behind the wheel, but there are also plenty of other pills and remedies, including cold and allergy medication, that seems safe at first but can cause sleepiness and slower reactions.

Even some pain relief medication might lead to tiredness, nausea, or other difficult side effects for driving, along with anxiety and depression medication. Anything containing codeine should also be avoided before getting behind the wheel and you can find comprehensive lists of problematic medications online. Always be sure to read the label and consult the list of side effects if you’re not sure, or speak with your doctor.

What If I Need To Drive While Taking Medication?

Driving is an essential part of life for many people, with countless individuals relying on their cars to get to work, pick up the kids from school, visit friends, etc., so what do you do if you need to drive but also need to take medications to deal with symptoms or health issues you might be experiencing?

Well, the most obvious option is to try and look for another mode of transportation if possible, such as a taxi, a ride-share, a bus, or asking a friend or family member to give you a ride. If this isn’t possible, you can chat with your doctor and see if there are any non-drowsy alternative medications you can take or try a reduced dosage to lessen the side effects.

It’s also wise to simply monitor how you feel when taking your medication and see what kinds of effects it has on you. In most cases, you may find that you don’t actually notice any real drowsiness or loss of concentration, but in other cases, you might see that you tend to get drowsy an hour after taking something, and you can adjust your driving schedule accordingly.


Driving while on medication can be quite risky, but there are times in life when it might feel like it’s unavoidable. In order to keep yourself as safe as possible on the roads, be sure to read the labels, learn about the side effects, see how you react to each medicine, and never get behind the wheel if you don’t feel totally focused and alert.