There is limited evidence of the role of medicines (or other drugs) in road traffic accidents in the UK. Six main epidemiological studies of medicines and driving in the UK have been reported over the last 12 years. Two examined the accident-involved drivers only; one the general population of drivers only; and 3 both accident-involved and the general driving population. The studies report between 6% and 13% of drivers involved in accidents having medicines in the days prior to their accident, the relative incidence amongst women being about twice that for men: about 2% were reported to have taken medicines acting on the central nervous system. The frequency of medicines being taken in the samples of the general driving population ranges from 5 1/2% to 22%; for those medicines likely to have an effect on the central nervous system the frequency is between 2% and 5%. A combination of alcohol consumption and drug use was studied in one belfast study. Generally, the two types of study were not matched to enable fair comparisons and estimates of risk to be made, and samples were not large enough to draw much conclusion about specific classes of drugs. Only the one study, large in basic numbers, but small in numbers of accident involved, gives any indication of risk and that for just one type of drug. There are deficiencies in all studies reported. The locations covered are very limited, concentrating in southern England, and are therefore totally unrepresentative of the country as a whole. Most of the findings rely on self-reporting, with all its inaccuracies, associated mainly with inadequate recall; this is more evident in the studies where interval between event and interview was relatively long. More generally, no study has explored the individual characteristics of people taking medicines; whether they are inherently more likely to be prone to accidents; whether the conditions requiring medicines lead to higher risk of accident; and whether the medicines may indeed be beneficial in countering the adverse effects of illness. The studies give a broad picture of the size of the medicine and driving problem in the UK, from which it is clear that for any type of medicine the incidence is so low that there are enormous logistical problems in setting up any surveys to measure accident risk associated with it. Nevertheless it is important to try to set up more widespread studies to quantify the frequency of use of medicines amongst accident involved drivers/riders and the general driving population. The changing pattern of use of medicines needs to be examined, and, with changing social habits, of cannabis and other drugs of abuse. TRRL)

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  • Corporate Authors:

    CNS (Clinical Neuroscience) Publishers

    50 Ferry Street, Isle of Dogs
    London,   England 
  • Authors:
    • SABEY, B
  • Publication Date: 1988

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Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00493018
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Source Agency: Transport Research Laboratory
  • ISBN: 1-869868-02-1
  • Files: ITRD, TRIS
  • Created Date: May 31 1990 12:00AM