(NaturalNews) Even though the vast majority of elderly drivers use one or more medications, few of them area aware of the effects that their drugs can have on driving performance, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Alabama-Birmingham and released as a report by the nonprofit AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
"That's really scary," said Peter Kissinger of the AAA Foundation. "The risks are real."
The researchers interviewed 630 drivers between the ages of 56 and 93, and found that 78 percent of them were taking one or more medications. Yet only 28 percent of the respondents knew of the potential risks from driving while medicated. Only 18 percent of those taking drugs especially known to impair driving ability -- including ACE inhibitors, beta blockers and sedatives -- had received warnings about the effects from their doctors or pharmacists.
Health care workers yet "are not effectively communicating known risks," Kissinger said.
The researchers also found that awareness of the risks of driving while medicated decreased with age, while the number of prescription medications used increased.
Studies have conclusively linked certain drugs or combinations of drugs to an increase in the risk of automobile collisions. However, the exact number of crashes caused by medications is still unknown because few safety agencies regularly test for the presence of drugs in drivers' systems after a crash, except when alcohol use is suspected.
An aging population and the increasing prevalence of multiple prescription use are only likely to worsen the problem of uninformed medicated
drivers, Kissinger said. To attempt to reverse the trend, the AAA Foundation plans to release a free web-based resource known as Roadwise Rx in early 2010. Roadwise Rx will include a searchable database of the effects that drugs have, individually or in combination, on driving
ability. Users will also be able to input personalized data, such as age, sex and weight. The program will be able to advise users about potential drug interactions, the effects of food, and when driving may be unsafe.
Sources for this story include: wheels.blogs.nytimes.com.