Drug driving and medicine: advice for healthcare professionals
Information to help healthcare professionals understand changes to drug driving laws and what this means for patients.
Advising patients on fitness to drive
It is a driver's responsibility to decide whether they consider their driving is, or they believe might be, impaired on any given occasion.
It is the responsibility of prescribers and suppliers of medicines to give suitable clinical advice to patients regarding the side effects and likely risks as part of their normal professional practice. For some drugs, this might include the advice that it may cause sleepiness and so might impair driving.
For patients who are on repeat prescriptions, pharmacists should reiterate clinical advice related to medicines and driving as part of their normal professional practice.
Current best practice advice given to patients about issues related to medicines and driving typically covers the following points, as relevant to each case:
- not drive if they develop any signs or symptoms suggesting their driving may be impaired such as experiencing sleepiness, poor co-ordination, impaired or slowed thinking, dizziness, or visual problems
- not drive at certain times when the risk may be temporarily increased, for example, when first starting, or when first increasing or reducing the dose of, a medicine that may potentially impair their driving
- be aware that alcohol taken in combination with other impairing drugs can substantially increase the risk of accidents
Patients should take particular care in circumstances that may increase the risk of their driving being impaired whilst taking their medicine, and avoid driving if this occurs. Such situations could include:
- if another prescribed medicine is added that could also impair their driving alongside the already potentially impairing medicine(s)
- if they take an over-the-counter medicine that could also potentially impair their driving if taken alongside the prescribed medicine
- if other medicines are being obtained from other prescribers that may have an impact on their driving
- if there is a developing medical condition that could increase the risk of the impairing side-effects from the prescribed medicine (for example, during the development of a serious illness with recent marked loss of weight)
- if the patient takes any new medicines that are known to be able to affect the metabolism of their existing medicine and so might impair their driving
- other relevant situations, such as the effects of age or the re-initiation of a medicine that previously caused a period of sleepiness that impaired driving
A patient suffering with a condition that is being treated by a medicine that is also one of the specified drugs for the new offence, should normally still be encouraged to keep taking their prescribed medicine for that clinical condition in accordance with the advice of the healthcare professional which may include advice about driving.
There is a body of evidence which shows that all of the drugs listed in the new drug driving offence result in a significantly greater road safety risk when taken in combination with alcohol, even in small amounts.
Other rules on fitness to drive
The new offence has been created in addition to the existing rules on medical conditions which affect fitness to drive to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency.
See assessing fitness to drive: a guide for medical professionals at gov.uk for the latest information on the medical standards for driving in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The medical standards are reviewed regularly and are based on the minimum EU standards for driving and the advice of the UK Government Secretary of States's Medical Advisory Panels.
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