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Senior driving skills fall victim to pills

How long seniors should retain their license to drive has been in the news lately, with some calling for automatic loss of privileges at a certain age. In reality, it is the medical prescriptions, and in some cases, the medical conditions themselves that make older drivers as dangerous as texting teenagers or imbibing adults.
Posted: September 12, 2012 - 2:28PM
Author: Don Bain

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According to AAA, over 80 percent of drivers 65 and older regularly take medications, yet only half have discussed driving safety issues with their doctor or pharmacist. The Baby Boomers are now turning 65 to the tune of 10,000 Americans every day, so AAA is promoting Roadwise Rx, a unique tool to help older drivers understand how their medications affect their ability to drive safely.

Developed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, Roadwise Rx details common side effects of prescription and over-the-counter medications. The online app provides personal feedback on the interactions of medications, herbal supplements and certain foods. Such interactions can impair safety. Older drivers should discuss the confidential results with their doctor or pharmacist to mitigate the effects of the drugs on driving.

"With seniors often visiting primary and specialty doctors regarding their different health care needs, it is important for each provider to know all medications being consumed," said Beth Mosher, director of public affairs for AAA Chicago. "Roadwise Rx lets users move beyond the old-fashioned 'brown bag' review with an easy way to virtually pool together their medications and talk to their doctors."

The elderly are sometimes required to take multiple medications as they age. Certain medications, such as antidepressants, have been shown to increase crash risk by up to 41 percent. Drugs like Diphenhydramine, common in over-the-counter cold and allergy medicines, can act as a depressant, resulting in impaired alertness similar to driving drunk.

"Earlier research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that nearly one out of five older drivers use five or more prescription medications. With medical conditions typically on the rise as people age, and treatment often dependent on medicinal interventions, there was a critical need to develop a tool to help older drivers understand the safety risk," said AAA Foundation President and CEO Peter Kissinger. "Roadwise Rx is the only tool of its kind that looks at medications and associated driving hazards."

By the year 2020, almost one in every six will be 65 or older with most still licensed to drive. A leading advocate for road safety over 110 years old, AAA provides advice and helpful resources for older adults and their families, supporting them as they tackle balancing safety with mobility. provides convenient, online access to a wealth of interactive resources, including Roadwise Rx AT NO COST to all seniors and their families.

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