How Prescription Drugs Contribute to a Car Accident

When people think of “Impaired” drivers, they usually imagine a motorist who is intoxicated or high on drugs. But prescription drugs can also impair a motorist, increasing the risk of a crash. Even though prescription drugs are legal, they are still powerful chemicals that work on the body in different ways. Some motorists should avoid driving while on prescriptions, but too many still grab their keys and go.

At Barney Injury Law, we help men and women just like you who are injured in a crash. Our Virginia Beach auto accident lawyer identifies some of the key ways prescription drugs can cause wrecks.


Many medications make drivers drowsy, and any driver who nods off for even a few seconds is at risk of crashing. Medications sometimes cause drowsiness individually, but others do so in combination. Any drink of alcohol—even a sip—can increase the drowsiness a motorist feels.

Painkillers like codeine and morphine can cause drowsiness, as can antidepressants and antihistamines.


Certain prescriptions can make a person feel as if the world is spinning. Obviously, someone in this condition should not be driving a motor vehicle because they will be unable to see pedestrians and other motorists in order to avoid them. We have heard of people suffering dizziness as a side effect for certain anti-epilepsy drugs, as well as antidepressants.

Cognitive Impairments

Driving safely often requires making split-second judgments to avoid crashes. Unfortunately, some medications impair this ability to reason clearly. Other prescriptions could make a person jumpy or antsy, which encourages them to take risks they otherwise would not. Reckless drivers cause devastating accidents and serious injuries.

Blurred or Double Vision

A motorist who can’t see properly will miss stop signs, pedestrians in the crosswalk, and other cars on the road. It is also impossible for a person with double vision to figure out the direction to steer their vehicle. Certain diuretics and sleep medications can cause blurred vision.

Is It Illegal to Drive While on Prescriptions?

It could be. Virginia has several laws on the books that would cover a driver impaired by prescription drugs. For example, Virginia Code § 18.2-266 makes it illegal to operate a vehicle under the influence of a drug of any “nature” if the drug impairs the motorist’s ability to drive. Prescription drugs would fall under this statute.

Va. Code § 46.2-852 also prohibits reckless driving, which is driving in any manner that endangers a person’s life or limb. This statute covers driving recklessly due to prescription drug side effects.

Even if not criminal, driving while impaired by prescriptions does qualify as negligence. This means any motorist whose impairment causes a wreck can be sued for compensation in a civil lawsuit.

Motorists must check the side effects of all prescription drugs before grabbing their keys. It is probably a good idea to take some prescriptions for a few days just to see how your body responds. Failure to exercise proper caution can lead to accidents and injuries.

If you were the victim of a wreck, we always check whether the driver at fault was on prescription drugs. Sometimes, the motorist will admit as much. In other cases, we might need to request a medical history to find out whether they are taking anything. When meeting with a lawyer, remember to mention if the driver appeared disorientated, dizzy, or lethargic.

Contact a Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyer Today

Our law firm will swing into action to help you obtain compensation for your medical care and other losses. Give us a call to schedule your confidential and free consultation. We represent victims in Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, and Norfolk, VA.

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