What happens if you drive under the influence of medication?

Last updated on November 1, 2019

You may have taken some medication to deal with a cold/flu. Is it legal to drive your vehicle after consuming such medication?

What the law says

Under section 67 of the Road Traffic Act, anyone who drives or attempts to drive under the influence of a drug or an intoxicating substance to such an extent that he/she is incapable of having proper control of the vehicle will be liable.

The consequences of such an offence are a fine of between $2,000 and $10,000 and/or up to 1 year’s jail for a first-time offence. Repeat offenders face a fine of between $5,000 and $20,000 and up to 2 years’ jail.

The offender would also be disqualified from holding or obtaining a driving licence for at least 2 years (or at least 5 years for repeat offenders) from the date of his conviction, or where he/she is imprisoned, from the date of release from prison. This is unless the court has special reasons to order a shorter disqualification period, or not disqualify the offender at all.

What this means for you

While on the road, concentration, quick reflexes and good observation skills are necessary for every driver to drive safely. All these elements may be nulled or reduced under the influence of drugs. This can cause severe repercussions, such as horrific traffic accidents and loss of lives.

Most people can still drive even after taking medication. Nonetheless, this depends on the type and dosage of the medication. After you have taken some medication, you should assess your own fitness to drive. If you experience symptoms like drowsiness, headache, or feeling faint, it would be prudent for you not to drive. If you took a combination of several medications, it may be particularly dangerous. When in doubt, or if it was indicated that the medication would lead to drowsiness, you should consult your doctor or pharmacist.

There are some common medications that are known to carry great risk to drivers. For example, at the top of the list, which represents the highest level of danger, are tranquilisers and sleeping pills. On a five point scale, with 5 representing the highest level of risk to drivers, the flu remedy and painkiller, Influbene, is rated 4. This means that drivers which have consumed this medicine is in most cases unfit to drive afterwards. At level 3, Viagra could potentially be a threat for certain drivers. With a risk level of 2, Aspirin is unlikely to have a large impact on the driver.

Ultimately, you should know your own condition best and would be the best person to gauge if you are suitable to drive. If there is some lingering doubt on your capability to drive after consuming some medication, it would be advisable for you to err on the side of caution, and consider taking public transport or ask someone else to take over the wheel instead. It is always better to be safe than sorry.