140,000 people drive under the influence every day

Published 26.04.23
by Torgeir Trapnes

Did you know that 140,000 people drive under the influence every single day? And that the largest proportion comes from the use of medications? Make sure to know if you can drive when using medications that may affect your driving ability.

Many Norwegians drive under the influence of substances. A remarkably large proportion of these individuals do so due to the effects of strong medication.

Everyone knows that drinking and driving do not go together. Nevertheless, police figures show that nationwide, two percent of road users drive under the influence of alcohol. This equates to 140,000 intoxicated drivers on the roads - every single day. While it is natural to assume that a high proportion are driving under the influence of alcohol, the reality is that drug-driving occurs five times more frequently than alcohol-related instances.

If you take sleeping pills, painkillers, or anti-anxiety medication, you must exercise extreme caution regarding which medications are safe to take before driving, the permissible dosage, and the required time interval between taking the medication and getting behind the wheel.

Medications that can affect the ability to drive

Numerous medications can affect your driving abilities, and it is your responsibility to exercise caution when operating a vehicle. This applies to medications that may reduce your concentration, impair your reaction time, and affect your critical faculties. Additionally, some of these medications may induce fatigue, lethargy, and reduced alertness.

It's wise to consult with a doctor about whether the medications you are using are compatible with driving.

In 2018, the Norwegian Medicines Agency compiled the warning triangle list, providing an overview of prescription drugs defined in section 36 of the Driver's License Regulations as having the potential to affect driving ability. The warning triangle list includes, among other things:

  • Sleeping pills and sedatives (benzodiazepines and benzodiazepine-like substances).
  • Strong painkillers (opioids for short- and long-term pain management).
  • Older types of antihistamines (mainly used for sleeping or for itching today).
  • Cannabinoids such as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
  • Medication for use in drug-assisted rehabilitation (LAR treatment).

A cross-combination of these medications or use alongside alcohol can increase the impact on driving ability - even if the medicines individually do not. This may apply even if the medications are taken in low doses. There are also many medications that can affect driving ability without being marked with a warning triangle. Hence, your doctor should always assess whether the perscribed medication poses a risk to road safety, irrespective of its warning triangle marking.

Startling figures

Magnus Wester, CEO of Safedrive, finds the figures downright alarming.

- We know that alcohol consumption costs Norwegian society between NOK 80 and 100 billion a year. This is not a small problem reserved for the few, but a large and serious social problem that requires collective efforts to combat. We have high hopes and strong belief that our traffic alarm can serve as a crucial tool in addressing this issue on the roads. We have several promising ideas and firmly believe that, in collaboration with other like-minded stakeholders, we can make a substantial difference.

Always assess your driving ability before getting behind the wheel

If you are uncertain whether your medication may impact your driving abilities, it's advisable to consult your doctor to determine whether the use of these medications is compatible with driving. Your doctor can provide specific guidance, including whether you should wait a certain number of hours before legally being able to drive.

Furthermore, it is your responsibility to evaluate whether you are capable of driving safely. If you are unable to drive in a roadworthy manner, it is advised to abstain from driving. If you are unsure whether or not you can drive in a safe and roadworthy manner, you are obligated to refrain from driving or consult a doctor to determine if you are fit to drive.

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