In a French study published in PLOS Medicine, of 72,685 drivers involved in serious motor vehicle accidents, 27% had taken at least one prescribed medicine the day of the crash. Drivers that had taken more serious drugs, including antihypertensives, diabetes drugs, opioids and antidepressants were at a higher risk of being responsible for a motor vehicle crash than drivers taking less serious prescription drugs. The Wall Street Journal
pointed out that the study did not take into account non-compliance in prescriptions; folks that were supposed to be taking the medication, but were not. Nevertheless, the study is instructive to Massachusetts drivers.
The study’s conclusion was that “the use of prescription medicines is associated with a substantial number of road traffic crashes,” especially with more serious medications. The study discusses the fact that throughout the world, over 1.3 million people die each year on the roads; 90% of those people are in developing countries. The scientists undertaking the study point out that it is the side effects, such as impairment, of prescription medications that need to be addressed.
One thing we notice is that the French study was possible because the researchers had access not only to the national police database, but the national health care database. It is not clear if such as study could be undertaken in the United States because of privacy laws, such as HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.