Hayfever medication could be the reason behind a spike in the number of motorists in Lancashire being caught driving under the influence.
New figures show the number of motorists caught driving under the influence in the country has more than doubled in two years.
Freedom of Information data obtained by Confused.com found 502 motorists fell foul of the offence in 2018, up from 238 in 2016. However, the drug-driving offences may not be strictly down to illegal drug use, as some over-the-counter and prescription medication also carry warnings to not be taken before driving. This includes chlorphenamine, hydroxyzine or promethazine which can all be taken to curb symptoms of hay fever.
Motorists taking some types of antihistamines, such as chlorphenamine, hydroxyzine or promethazine, could end up on the wrong side of the law they suffer side effects which can impact driving ability.
In fact, some drivers in the North West have already felt these side effects first-hand. According to further research, almost a third (31 per cent) of drivers in the region suffer from hay fever, with more than one in eight (13 per cent) claiming medication taken to curb their symptoms it impacted their ability to drive. These motorists suffered from drowsiness, delayed reactions and even blurred vision – all of which are dangerous while behind the wheel.
But according to the research there is a lot of confusion around what medication is or isn’t safe to take before driving. In fact, one in seven (14 per cent) motorists in the North West are confused about which antihistamines they can take and safely drive. Although this isn’t the only type of medication which is leaving drivers slightly baffled. More than one in four (27 per cent) are confused about which over-the-counter drugs can be taken before driving, while a further one in five (23 per cent) are also confused about which prescription drugs are safe to take before driving.
Given that not all medication is safe to take before driving, Confused.com is urging motorists to double check for any potential side effects that could affect them behind the wheel and lead to breaking the law. To clear any confusion around the safety of certain drugs, Confused.com has compiled a search tool outlining the driving limits for several common prescription and over-the-counter medications. The calculator lets users select a drug or medication to find out how much they can take before getting behind the wheel, if at all, and how it could affect their ability to drive.
It is likely not all offences recorded were down to illegal drug use. In fact, research suggests UK drivers have felt incapable of controlling the car after taking prescription or over-the-counter drugs (five per cent), which could be deemed as careless driving. This is an offence that carries a maximum penalty of £5,000, three to nine points on your licence, and a potential disqualification(2). Meanwhile, the punishment for drug-driving is more severe and will see motorists face up to six months in prison, banned for a minimum of 12 months, as well as landed with an unlimited fine. Some (16 per cent) think this is too harsh for those caught over the legal limit of prescription drugs.
Amanda Stretton, motoring editor at Confused.com, said: “Hay fever is one of the downsides of summer. While antihistamines are a great solution they can catch us out when we least expect it.
“More than 500 drivers were caught driving under the influence last year in Lancashire alone. And many drivers in the North West area have suffered the effects of certain medications on driving first-hand. More clarity about how the different types of over-the-counter and prescribed medication can affect driving ability could ensure fewer people are breaking the law.
“To clear any confusion, our tool highlights the law about driving after taking the most common legal and illegal drugs. If you’re unsure we urge you to speak to your doctor or pharmacist for further clarity.”
• Confused.com has compiled a search tool outlining the driving limits for several common prescription and over-the-counter medications. The calculator lets users select a drug or medication to find out how much they can take before getting behind the wheel, if at all, and how it could affect their ability to drive.