Millions of drivers could be leaving themselves vulnerable to a drug-driving charge due to their hay fever.
With the warning of a “pollen bomb” bringing early misery to sufferers, new research has found that more than half of motorists have taken medication to deal with hay fever symptoms. But certain antihistamines can affect a driver’s abilities and could land them in trouble with the law.
One in ten drivers questioned by Confused.com said they had noticed their driving abilities were affected after taking a hay fever treatment, including feeling drowsy, having slower reactions or suffering compromised vision.
Driving under the influence of any drug is illegal if it impairs your abilities, including prescription and over-the-counter medications. A conviction for drug-driving carries a minimum of a one-year driving ban and an unlimited fine, while the worst offences can carry a six-month jail sentence.
in 2017, 6,382 drivers were caught driving under the influence of drugs, including illegal, prescription and over-the-counter substances.
Despite the law being clear on drug-driving, the study found that 86 per cent of drivers were unaware of the rules. In response, Confused.com has created a guide to law around drug-driving.
Professor Ashok Soni, from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, advised: “There will be a warning on the packaging of medicine advising people not to drive or operate machinery if the medicine causes drowsiness. This isn’t always the case but it is best to avoid taking these if driving is essential.
“Even with medicines that don’t commonly cause drowsiness there is a small risk, so I would always advise people to see how they react to a medicine if taking it for the first time and not to drive unless they are sure they are okay.
“Depending on symptoms there are topical products available, nasal sprays and eye drops which won’t cause these symptoms so these are much better to use if driving is essential. Always keep windows closed and even when parked, don’t leave windows or doors open as pollen can be trapped in the car.”
Amanda Stretton, motoring editor at Confused.com, commented: “This ‘pollen boom’ means motorists are going to be desperately relying on their antihistamines to keep their symptoms at bay. But what they may not know is that some can cause drowsiness and seriously affect their ability to drive.
“The consequences of drug driving can be very serious. Offenders are putting their lives and the lives of other road users at risk, and they could seriously damage their driving history if served with a criminal record, and see their car insurance premiums shoot up as a result.”