Over-the-counter anti-hay fever medicines are thought to have fuelled a rise in positive drug-driving tests by Welsh police forces.
Drug-driving offences in Wales have increased 62% in just two years, according to new research by Confused.com through Freedom of Information requests to three police forces in the region which revealed 501 drivers were charged with driving under the influence of drugs in 2017, up from 310 (62%) in 2015.
This includes consumption of illegal, prescription and over-the-counter drugs which could have an impact on a motorist’s ability to drive, such as chlorphenamine, hydroxyzine or promethazine – all types of antihistamines to curb symptoms of hay fever. In total, more than 6,300 UK drivers have been caught under the influence of drugs in 2017.
And this year to-date, police forces in Wales have already recorded 48 offences of drug-driving but given the hay fever warning issued by the Met Office and reported pollen boom, more motorists may just be resorting to the stronger meds to keep their symptoms at bay.
But what drivers may not know is that some types of antihistamine, particularly older types, will in fact make you sleepy, and therefore are not necessarily safe to take before jumping behind the wheel. Further research by Confused.com found that over half (58%) of hay fever-suffering motorists in the UK have driven after taking medication to help their symptoms. Worryingly, a tenth (10%) of these admit it affected their ability to drive, including making them drowsy, their reactions slower or compromising their vision.
It’s no wonder more than two thirds (67%) of UK drivers think there should be clearer warnings on packaging of medication that can affect a motorist’s ability to drive. Similarly, a further two thirds (65%) think doctors and pharmacists should be offering clearer advice when prescribing certain medications.
To fully understand the impact of drugs on a motorist’ ability to control a car or read the road ahead, Confused.com has launched a handy guide which outlines the effects of illegal, prescription and over-the-counter drugs, as well as information on drug-driving convictions.