Police warning on drug-driving

By Roddy AshworthPOLICE have asked doctors to warn their elderly patients not to drive after taking powerful prescription medicines.Officers believe pensioners are often unaware that they are under the influence of drugs while taking strong medication because it has been prescribed to them by their GP.

By Roddy Ashworth

POLICE have asked doctors to warn their elderly patients not to drive after taking powerful prescription medicines.

Officers believe pensioners are often unaware that they are under the influence of drugs while taking strong medication because it has been prescribed to them by their GP.

However, some doctors are unaware their elderly patients are still driving while under the influence of their medicines and so do not tell them the dangers.


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Inspector Alan Jelley, of Essex Police, also urged pharmaceutical companies to consider placing printed warnings on drugs' packaging aimed specifically at the elderly.

“Many doctors assume that their most elderly and frail patients gave up driving years ago,” said Insp Jelley.

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“However, they fail to ask them this crucial question and prescribe medicines that place their patients in a position of involuntary drug-driving.”

Essex Police want to avoid the type of road crash that claimed the lives of two people last summer when an elderly man, suffering from dementia, struck another car head-on in Suffolk, killing himself and the other driver.

At the inquest, the coroner said it was grossly unsuitable for the elderly driver to have been behind the wheel.

Traffic police can carry out roadside field impairment tests to help determine whether a driver is under the influence of drugs.

Insp Jelley added: “The elderly are less aware that their driving abilities have been compromised by drugs.

“So we are urging GPs to specifically ask elderly patients if they intend driving before giving them a prescription or actually asking them if they are taking any self-administered medication.”

Dr John Cormack, a GP from South Woodham Ferrers, said he agreed with the police proposal.

“Many drivers are unaware that the medication they're taking can impair their ability to drive - and bear in mind that many elderly patients are taking a combination of drugs,” he added.

“It's not just prescription medication - some medicines purchased over-the-counter from pharmacists can make people drowsy and slow their reaction time.

“Pharmacists are well placed to advise in these circumstances. The golden rule when you are driving and planning on taking medication is to always ask.”

roddy.ashworth@eadt.co.uk

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