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Why is it illegal to drive on certain medications?

On Behalf of | Apr 3, 2020 | Criminal Defense

In Pennsylvania, DUI laws do not only cover issues related to alcohol use. It also covers issues related to illegal and even legal drugs. But why is it illegal to drive on some medications if the medicines are not illegal? 

Today we will look at the answer to that question. We will see how these medicines impact a driver’s ability to remain safe on the road. 

Altered states of alertness on medicine 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration discusses how medications impact a driver’s safety. In particular, they focus on medications that have an impact on a driver’s state of alertness. Many prescription and over-the-counter medicines have this affect. This is true of cough syrups, allergy medicine and cold medicine in particular. Many of these drugs have ingredients that induce sleepiness or create “mental fog”. This makes it hard for drivers to focus. 

The meaning of heavy machinery 

These drugs also come with warnings not to operate heavy machinery while on a dose. Some people do not realize that in these cases, a car is “heavy machinery”. Other warnings state outright that drivers should not be on the road. Sometimes a medicine will use both warnings. This is because the drowsiness or mental fog that a medication causes is significant. It is significant enough to impact a driver’s ability to concentrate, focus and stay safe. 

In fact, some drivers compare their experience with legal drugs to the “high” of an illicit drug. This risk is something law enforcement cannot overlook. This is why you may face DUI related charges even if you are on legal medication at the time of your arrest.