Objective: To describe the association of specific medication classes with driving outcomes and provide clinical recommendations.
Data sources: The MEDLINE and EMBASE databases were searched for articles published from January 1973 to June 2013 on classes of medications associated with driving impairment. The search included outcome terms such as automobile driving, motor vehicle crash, driving simulator, and road tests.
Study selection and data extraction: Only English-language articles that contained findings from observational or interventional designs with ≥ 10 participants were included in this review. Cross-sectional studies, case series, and case reports were excluded.
Data synthesis: Driving is an important task and activity for the majority of adults. Some commonly prescribed medications have been associated with driving impairment measured by road performance, driving simulation, and/or motor vehicle crashes. This review of 30 studies identified findings with barbiturates, benzodiazepines, hypnotics, antidepressants, opioid and nonsteroidal analgesics, anticonvulsants, antipsychotics, antiparkinsonian agents, skeletal muscle relaxants, antihistamines, anticholinergic medications, and hypoglycemic agents. Additional studies of medication impact on sedation, sleep latency, and psychomotor function, as well as the role of alcohol, are also discussed.
Conclusions: Psychotropic agents and those with central nervous system side effects were associated with measures of impaired driving performance. It is difficult to determine if such associations are actually a result of medication use or the medical diagnosis itself. Regardless, clinicians should be aware of the increased risk of impaired driving with specific classes of medications, educate their patients, and/or consider safer alternatives.
Keywords: automobile driving; driving safety; drugs and driving; medication safety; potentially driver-impairing medications.