More Drivers Impaired By Prescription Drugs

WASHINGTON COUNTY, MD - Police are discovering many drivers who are a menace on the roads don't know it. They're often under the influence of drugs that are completely legal, but pose a serious health risk behind the wheel.

"People automatically think of the illegal drugs, cocaine, heroine, those type of things and certainly, those do cause impairment but the biggest problem in Maryland and the nation is the prescription medications," says Lt. Tom Woodward of the Maryland State Police.

From anti-depressants, to sleeping pills, medicines are labeled with warnings if they could affect driving. But drivers can be affected by medications in unexpected ways.

"We arrest them for impaired driving, they take a breath test, there's no alcohol involved and sometimes they don't understand what's causing the impairment," says Woodward.

Driving while impaired by prescription medication is just as illegal as driving under the influence of alcohol. While a breathalyzer may not detect it, police conduct a 12-step evaluation to determine if the driver is having a medical problem, or is impaired by a drug.

According to a recent AAA survey,  8 out of 10 seniors are taking medications, but only half may be aware of possible safety risks while driving on them.

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