When someone isn’t feeling well or is having trouble sleeping, the goal tends to become singular: to fix that condition. For the most part, it is a blessing that there are various types of medications available that can ease people’s troubles (assuming that people use the drugs responsibly.)

Therein lies the trouble with medications. There are those who use the drugs in a reckless way. There are also those who use prescriptions as prescribed but still pose a danger to themselves and others. The Food and Drug Administration worries that insomnia drugs are resulting in drowsy driving on U.S. roads.

IMS Health reports that last year in the U.S., doctors wrote 60 million prescriptions for sleep aids. With the FDA and other safety advocates suspecting that some patients take their sleeping pills before bed but are still under the influence of them in the morning, it is easy to understand that there is a traffic safety concern.

There is a wide acceptance that drinking and driving is dangerous and can cause car accidents. Getting the message across to drivers about prescription drug impairment while driving is a bit trickier. If a doctor prescribes the drug, it should be safe, right? Also, how many patients thoroughly read and live by the drug warnings regarding their prescriptions?

Reducing the risk of drowsy driving accidents related to medications will take a consorted effort. The FDA must get drug makers to participate in the traffic safety issue by requiring them to list proper warnings and recommend safe dosages. Doctors and pharmacists should take part in the effort by making it clear through conversations with patients of the dangers of driving while impaired by even a prescription drug.

Drivers also need to take responsibility over themselves to help prevent impaired driving crashes. Everyone should evaluate how they are feeling before getting behind the wheel. If there is any doubt about their ability to safely operate a vehicle, then drivers should put their keys down and find another way to get around. They should also talk to their doctor about their medication and its side effects. Maybe a different dosage or different drug would be safer.

If someone is injured in a car accident and believes it was the result of impaired driving, they might have legal options. A personal injury lawyer could listen to the details of the incident and help determine whether liability could be assigned to another driver, a drug company or doctor, for example.

Source: The New York Times, “To Judge Sleep Aids, U.S. Looks at Drowsy Driving in the Morning,” Katie Thomas, Aug. 13, 2013