There is a common misconception that if a drug came from a doctor, it is legal to use it and continue with your life as normal. That often includes getting behind the wheel of a car to drive to work or other social obligations. In reality, however, many medications doctors prescribe can affect your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.
Laws in Texas make it illegal to drive while under the influence of alcohol (DUI) or while impaired by illegal street drugs or prescription medication (DWI). Even if you don’t believe your ability to drive changes when you take your medication, it’s always best to err on the side of caution. If you have taken a new prescription and you are unsure about the side effects, use a ride share service, call for a taxi or have someone you trust drive you after taking it.
A lot of different drugs can impair your driving ability
You may think that the only drugs you need to avoid before getting behind the wheel of a car are painkillers. These notorious and often addictive medications can produce cognitive impairments or drowsiness as side effects, making it dangerous to drive. While you absolutely shouldn’t be driving while under the influence of narcotic painkillers or opioids, there are many other prescription drugs that can impact how safely you drive, including:
- Drugs designed to treat anxiety and depression
- Cough medicines with codeine
- Other cold medications and allergy drugs
- Tranquilizers and sleeping pills
- Diet pills and other stimulants
Even if the medication came from a prescription or is an over-the-counter remedy, taking it before driving can lead to a drugged driving arrest.
Some people tolerate medications better than others. In general, you want to take the drug for at least two weeks before determining if it impacts your ability to safely drive. If you find it does impact your ability to remain alert or react in a timely manner to stimuli on the road, talk to your doctor about changing medications or plan for alternative transportation.
Drugged drivers are subject to serious criminal penalties
The law that criminalizes drugged driving is the same one that makes driving under the influence of alcohol illegal. While the law does not list specific drugs, it does state that if you lack your normal use of mental or physical faculties due to taking a controlled substance or drug, you could face charges related to intoxicated driving.
First time offenders can face up to 180 days in jail, up to a $2,000 fine and loss of driving privileges between 90 days and a year. Anyone accused of drugged driving needs to take those charges seriously and consider options for a defense.