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Motorists usually blame alcohol, marijuana or illegal drugs for impaired driving. However, prescription or over-the-counter drugs that are routinely used can also increase the risks of car accidents.

Prescription drugs were the most common drug found in drivers involved in deadly car accidents. These drugs were involved in 46.5 percent of fatal accidents. Benzodiazepines prescribed for anxiety or sleep disorders and opiates prescribed for the relief of pain are the two most common prescriptions found in drivers involved in accidents. Certain antidepressants can multiply the odds of a car crash by 41 percent.

Over-the-counter cold and allergy medications containing diphenhydramine can seriously impair a driver’s ability to maintain a safe distance, drive at a safe speed and keep their lane position. In fact, one dose of this medication may impair driving as much as driving drunk.

Drivers, however, have not recognized these risks. Only 28 percent of drivers recognize that driving under the influence of prescription drugs is a serious threat compared to 66 percent who believe that driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious threat and 56 percent who feel that driving under the influence of illegal drugs is dangerous.

Drivers’ behavior further illustrates this risk. A national roadside survey of motorists revealed that 35 percent of respondents self-regulated their driving when they suspected that their medications would impair their ability to drive safely.

This danger will likely increase. The number of Americans taking at least one prescription drug grew by 10 percent over the last decade. During this time, the use of multiple prescription drugs rose by 20 percent and the use of at least five prescription drugs increased by 70 percent. Prescription and over-the-counter drug use also increases as people age.

Motorists driving while impaired by these drugs may face legal liability in Kentucky. An attorney can help car accident victims seek compensation in a personal injury lawsuit.