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Motorists ignoring hayfever drug warnings

Drivers who fail to check side-effects of over-the-counter hayfever drugs could be more at risk, according to study.

Relief from over-the-counter drugs can’t come soon enough for anyone with debilitating hayfever but drivers should take care to read the label before driving, road safety charity Brake and insurance broker Direct Line have warned.

Nature can be a cruel mistress
Nature can be a cruel mistress

Out of a survey of 1,000 drivers, 17 per cent admitted ignorance of warnings that say not to drive or ignoring the label altogether. Meanwhile 44 per cent admitted to checking ‘sometimes’ or never checking instructions to see if their driving ability will be impaired.

Three in 10 respondents were unaware that certain non-prescription and prescription hayfever treatments can actually have an effect that could make driving dangerous. Awareness of this fact was higher among men (39 per cent) than women (23 per cent).

Only 19 per cent admitted to always checking the instructions, even though 70 per cent of respondents thought hayfever and allergy medications were the most likely to affect their performance behind the wheel, narrowly ahead of some painkillers (69 per cent) and decongestants (47 per cent).

The study also mentioned the fact it is illegal to drive when unfit to do so – regardless of whether the drugs you are taking are legal or illegal. New measures coming into action in the autumn 2014 will make it easier for police to tackle those who do drugs and drive.

Brake does provide some tips for those of us who are cursed with hayfever during the summer months, including using second and third-generation antihistamines as opposed to first-generation, which ‘pass into the central nervous system, causing sedation’.

Brake deputy chief executive Julie Townsend commented: “It’s not just illegal drugs that make you unsafe to drive; legal, over-the-counter and prescription drugs can make you a danger too, to yourself and others.

“This widespread lack of awareness among drivers is alarming, suggesting many are unwittingly posing a threat to safety on our roads. It’s a particular concern at this time of year, when huge numbers of people will be using hayfever medicines, some of which can be risky if you drive.

“All drivers have a responsibility to ensure they are fit to drive when getting behind the wheel, including not drinking alcohol, ensuring their eyesight is up to scratch, and making sure their medication is safe to drive on. If it isn’t, you need to stop driving or seek an alternative medication.”

A study by the Transport Research Labaratory found that 5.2 per cent of drivers and 4.1 per cent of motorcyclists who died in a crash had traces of medicinal drugs in their bloodstream that could have affected their driving.

Drivers are advised to ask their GP or pharmacist if concerned. Or, as you should do already, read the label thoroughly before going for a spin or operating heavy machinery.


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