Ability to drive

On Austria's roads accidents under the influence of alcohol occur frequently - however also under the influence of medicines. The warnings of effects of medicines on the ability to drive in the package leaflet and on the packaging need to be observed at all costs. In case of doubt, patients should talk to their doctor or pharmacist.

Certain medicines can have an immediate effect on your ability to drive, sometimes even on the day after taking them. These effects can occur with both prescription and non-prescription medicines. The effects are often intensified by drinking alcohol at the same time or by additional interactions with other medicines. Symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, blurred or impaired vision, suddenly falling asleep or seizures can occur. It is known from several publications that in road traffic the safety risk from taking medication is often underestimated.

Increased caution is particularly needed at the beginning of treatment, when changing dose or changing medication.

Examples of some classes of medicines that may affect your responsiveness or ability to drive:

  • analgesics (medicines that are used to relief pain)
  • antidepressants (medicines that are used to treat major depressive disorders)
  • antidiabetics (medicines that are used to treat diabetes mellitus by lowering the blood glucose levels)
  • antiepileptic drugs (medicines that are used to treat epileptic seizures)
  • antihistamines (medicines that are used to treat allergies)
  • antihypertensives (medicines that are used to treat high blood pressure)
  • anxiolytics (medicines that are used to treat anxiety)
  • hypnotics (medicines that are used to help with sleep problems)
  • neuroleptics (medicines that are used to treat psychotic symptoms)
  • ophthalmologics (medicines that are used to treat eye diseases)

Specific information concerning the ability to drive and operate machinery can be found in the Summary of Product Characteristics (SmPC) in section 4.7 “Effects on the ability to drive and use machines” and in the package leaflet in section 2. In case of a negative effect of the medicine on the ability to drive there is also a warning on the packaging, including a road traffic triangular warning sign.

On the basis of the pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic profiles of a medicine, as well as on the basis of reported side effects and, if available specific studies, the potential to negatively influence the ability to drive is classified into the following categories:

(a) no or negligible influence

(b) low influence

(c) moderate influence

(d) great influence  

Additional specific warnings and precautions should also be expressed for (c) and (d). Furthermore, for classifications according to (c) and (d) a road traffic triangular warning sign needs to be included in the package leaflet and the labelling in Austria.

General recommendations

  • The package leaflet should be read carefully before taking a medicinal product and the information on the label should also be observed.
  • For medicinal products with an effect on the ability to drive, the prescribing doctor should draw the patient's attention to this fact. The same applies to the dispensing of these medicinal products in pharmacies, especially in the case of non-prescription medicinal products.
  • The prescribed or recommended dosages as well as the timing of administration should be strictly observed. Drugs should not be discontinued by patients at short notice or on their own, in the belief that this will increase their ability to drive.
  • The driving of a vehicle and the operation of machines needs to be avoided when symptoms such as dizziness, blurred or impaired vision, suddenly falling asleep and seizures occur.

Further inquiry note