What does having your driving licence mean to you? For me it represents freedom and independence; making it easy to get to the places I want or need to go to without having to deal with the restraints of public transport.
I did not realise how much I take having a driving licence for granted until a friend of mine had started a period of not driving on medical grounds. This led me to think about all of the possible medicines available over the counter and prescriptions, the medicine we might need to help us get better.
Summer is often difficult for hay fever suffers, the symptoms of which can be quite debilitating without medication, that quick trip to the chemist to buy an off-the-shelf product could land you in trouble behind the wheel of a car.
It is not just hay fever medication you can buy over-the-counter. Having recently recovered from a summer bug, I am reminded about the cold and ‘flu medicine which can make you drowsy, or even cough medicine. Did you know that some bottles of liquid all-in-one medicines contains up to three units of alcohol in them?
We all know we should always read the label/advice sheet before taking any medicine but in reality we don’t all look. Whatever our reasons for not reading it we could be missing out on some important information.
Many of us will say: “I have never taken drugs and driven – I don’t take drugs.” Is this because we don’t think of medicine as drugs? I would like to think everyone reading this will trust me when I say I have never taken illegal drugs, but during my life I have taken either over-the-counter medicines and those prescribed to me by a doctor and driven without questioning the effects they may have.
I now always take a couple of minutes to ask the doctor or pharmacist and read the information sheet before I drive.
With the changes in law recently regarding drug-driving, we all need to be more diligent when it comes to what we medicine we take and the amount we take if we intend to drive. Failing a field impairment test and being found guilty of drug-driving would be horrendous experience, not just selfishly because of the consequences it would have for me and my family but also because of what could have happened if my actions had hurt someone.
If you are not aware of the changes you can find the information here https://www.gov.uk/drug-driving-law
Now I cannot advise you – I am not a doctor and do not have any type of medical training other than a first aid certificate which thankfully I have not had to put to use recently, so please check with your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking any medicine. You never know it might be compromising your ability to be safe behind the wheel of a car.
By Rebecca Ashton, IAM RoadSmart head of driver behaviour