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Half of Older Drivers Take 7 or More Drugs, AAA Warns

Few are told about possible impairment behind the wheel

A bottle of prescription drugs on a white background.  The open pill bottle is spilling a variety of pills out onto the white surface with a set of car keys beside it.  This concept illustrates driving under prescription drugs, abusing narcotics, DUI, dangers of prescription drug use with the combination of alcohol.
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While half of older drivers take seven or more medications regularly, fewer than 1 in 5 have been warned by a health professional about the drugs’ possible effects on driving, according to a report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The report is based on findings from the AAA Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers (LongROAD) study, during which nearly 3,000 older drivers (ages 65 to 79) brought their medications to researchers to be classified and the information entered into a database.

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Among the findings: 

  • About 7 in 10 take a cardiovascular or central nervous system drug, or both.
  • About half take electrolytes or hormone-related drugs.
  • Medication use and dosage tend to increase with age.

At present there are an estimated 40 million or more drivers age 65 or older in the United States. With so many on regular medication, especially those who have been prescribed more than one drug, impairment while driving is a critical and significant issue, the AAA warns.

“Given the high rate of medications, physicians and pharmacists need to play a role in both cautious prescribing as well as counseling,” the foundation recommends in its report. “Yet studies of older drivers and physician counseling about medications and driving have demonstrated a lack of knowledge on the part of both parties.”

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