AAA Study Warns of Dangers of Mixing Driving and Drugs; Awareness Is Low

November 1, 2009

If you're reading this article and have been around long enough to remember Woodstock, the Chicago 7 and the original Beatles trip to this country, then you are an official Baby Boomer, whether you want to admit it or not.

The Baby Boomers, officially by the census as people born between 1946 and 1964, were the largest generation this country has ever seen. Indeed, if you were to think of the population curve as a rather large snake and the Boomers as a huge snake-snack, we'd be the huge bump somewhere in the middle and heading toward the tail. We're the ones following the many silent heroes of the Greatest Generation, our fathers, who quietly fought in their major war and brought us up in unprecedented prosperity.

We took over from them sometime in the 1970s and have done a pretty good job of handling things at least in electronics and medicine and with our health care. We are all pretty health-obsessed (admit it, you are) and through the years we've taken up healthy crazes like exercise and proper diet and such so that now a person of 60 looks and acts like a person of 40 (a generation ago) and has a pretty good chance of hitting 80 or more in good health.

This is leading to a problem, though - as the Boomers age they are beginning to experience more aches and pains and the ills. They are like the result of all of the things we've done during our lives dirt-biking and hitting huge hills and ruts and like activities eventually does take it out of you no matter what you think. The things we did at 20 and 30 are now the pains and aches of middle age.

That we are also as healthy as we are is thanks to the investments that have been made in new drugs and therapies that were not even available as recently as 25 years ago. There are whole classes of drugs that were more the realm of science fiction in the 1970s that are now truly science fact.

They are keeping us healthy, active and working. That's the upside. There's a downside, points out the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, most motorists older than 55 are not aware of the potential danger of combining medications and driving.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recently conducted a study, quoted in this month's AAA Horizon's, published by AAA of Southern New England, that found that 78 percent of people over 55 take medications but only one in four know about the possible impacts on driving.

Health-care professionals need to educate patients about their potentially drive-impairing medications to help them make safe driving decisions, says Peter Kissinger, head of the AAA Foundation.

One of our goals is to help older drivers stay mobile as long as safely possible, he continued, so, it is imperative that we do a better job of educating drivers on known risks, such as the side effects of medications.

According to the study, 95 percent of respondents have one or more medical conditions and 78 percent use one or more medications yet only 28 percent indicated some awareness of the potential impact on driving performance associated with those medications.

The study went on to say that very few respondents, only 18 percent, had received any warning about potentially driver-impairing medications (such as ACE inhibitors, sedatives and beta blockers) from a health-care professional.

The study also found that such warnings do not increase with additional numbers of medications or medical conditions.

Previous research indicates that use of a single potentially driver-impairing medication and use of multiple medications increases the risk of being in a crash.

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