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Driving under the influence of antihistamine?

Drug drive test could catch out those taking hay fever medication, warn insurance firms.

A new easy-to-use roadside swab test which can catch drug offenders was introduced two years ago on 2 March 2015 – and it targets more than just those who dabble with illegal substances. With super pollen set to be heading our way this bank holiday weekend, the debate about drug-driving is once again in full bloom. Indeed, research from Confused.com shows many drivers are unaware of the danger of dosing up on seemingly harmless treatments to ease their running noses or itchy eyes before taking to the wheel.

According to the study, more than a third of Brits (34%) claim to suffer from hay fever, with nearly two-thirds of hay fever sufferers (64%) admitting to driving after taking medication. This is despite common side effects such as drowsiness, experienced by more than half of drivers (55%), in addition to feeling lethargic (35%) and blurry vision (35%). Worryingly, one in 15 motorists (7%) who suffer from hay fever admits that their ability to drive has at one point been impaired while under the influence of medication. And disturbingly, almost one in 20 (4%) of these people have had an accident as a result of driving after taking such medication.

Many people don’t understand the serious consequences that can arise by mixing certain over-the-counter remedies. So, it may come as no surprise that many Brits feel strongly about drug driving, with more than half (51%) saying that absolutely no one should be allowed to drive while under the influence of drugs. Yet with more than a third (34%) of drivers suffering from hay fever, it is understandable many may have to resort to taking remedies to help them combat their allergies. And according to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society many prescription and over-the-counter medications, including some hay fever medications, can have side-effects.

Despite guidance leaflets being provide with prescription and over the counter medication, when it comes to the recommended guidelines for taking hay fever medication, many Brits are showing a flagrant disregard to the advice being given and warning information provided with the medication. In fact more than one in seven (15%) drivers who suffer from hay fever admit to not reading the advice leaflet. And worryingly, one in 15 (7%) drivers admit to not sticking to the recommended dose too, with 3% saying they didn’t realise there was a recommended dose for the medication.

Amanda Stretton, motoring editor at Confused.com, says:

“It’s worrying to see that so many drivers admit to driving while under the influence of drugs (15%) – both prescription (12%) and illegal (3%). However, it would seem that new drug driving laws introduced two years ago seem to be having an impact, with the number of drug driving arrests increasing.

“The level of awareness among drivers around how certain medications can affect a person’s driving ability is another area for concern. This is particularly alarming given that we are about to enter hay fever season. More than a third (34%) admit to suffering from the ailment and, understandably, many resort to taking medication to help combat the symptoms. Yet those that choose to do so need to be highly aware of the potential risks of drowsiness and reduced concentration levels while driving.

“Our advice is simple, before taking any medication people should always read the safety leaflet or ask a pharmacist before taking to the road. If unsure, they should err on the side of caution and avoid driving at all costs.”

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