A new study has shown that most older drivers are unaware of the potential impact on driving performance associated with taking medications.
Led by experts from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), the study indicates that 95 percent of those age 55 and older have one or more medical conditions, 78 percent take one or more medications, and only 28 percent have an awareness of the risks those medications might have on driving ability.
The researchers surveyed 630 drivers, aged 56 to 93. Only 18 percent reported receiving a warning from a health-care professional about potential driver-impairing (PDI) medications, such as ACE inhibitors, sedatives and beta-blockers.
They observed that such warnings did not increase with increasing numbers of medications used or increasing numbers of medical conditions.
"These findings indicate that health-care professionals need to take a more active role in educating their patients about the risks of PDI medications. Society needs to understand that PDI medications are a driving-safety issue, and there is a need for increased education geared at older drivers, their families and health professionals," said Dr. Paul MacLennan, assistant professor of surgery at UAB and the study's lead author.
Referring to previous studies, the researcher said that certain medications were known to be associated with an increased risk for vehicle collision.
Among survey respondents aged 75 and older, according to the researcher, 77 percent said that they had no awareness of the risks presented from PDI medication, and had not received any information on risk from health-care providers.
Yet that group was most likely to have multiple medical conditions and be taking multiple medications, said MacLennan.
"Increased knowledge and awareness by health professionals will enable them to offer suggestion on how older drivers can modify their behavior to reduce risks, such as reducing driving or increasing self-monitoring of PDI side-effects.
Increased patient education by pharmacists also is a key component to addressing PDI medications and has been shown effective in increasing patient knowledge of medications," said MacLennan.
A research article describing the study has been published in the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.