Road Safety News

Prescription drugs need traffic light labelling system: IAM

Tuesday 15th October 2013

The IAM is calling for a traffic light labelling system on medicines following a poll in which only half of respondents said that prescription drug labelling is sufficiently clear on medicines.

Almost a third of respondents to the IAM poll agreed that a simple traffic light system would be the best method to inform people of the risks of using prescription drugs when driving.

The poll also suggests that the vast majority of drivers have no sympathy for those who drive under the influence of drugs. 73% of respondents think that those who drive while under the influence of illegal drugs are as dangerous as drunk drivers; and 80% agree that a zero limit should be set for the ‘worst’ illegal drugs.

59% of respondents feel the current drug drive prosecution of a one year ban and up to £1,000 fine is not strong enough.

Earlier this year, the Government announced its intention to introduce a drug-driving bill that will include chemicals which can be found in prescription drugs.

Simon Best, IAM chief executive, said: “Motorists clearly feel that labelling is not clear or consistent enough when giving information on driving when taking medications.

“A traffic-light system such as red for no driving, amber for care required and green for limited effects appears to be the most popular option. What is clear is that we will need a wide ranging information campaign to support the new laws and ensure motorists don’t find themselves on the wrong side of the law.”

Contact the IAM for more information.


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Proper research is needed to identify the drugs which adversely affect our driving. At present if there is one person in the drug trial who reports feeling drowsy when taking it, then that is listed as a potential side-effect. Even medicines such as Tixylix, a cough remedy for children, have a warning not to drive, or operate heavy machinery, when taking it. I doubt whether there will ever be the will to conduct proper tests, so it will most likely be left to the person taking the drug to decide.

For example, I regularly take anti-histamines during the hay fever season; they make many people very drowsy, but have no such effect on me. Should my GP 'ban' me from driving on the basis that other folk have problems? I think not. Knowing how sensitive people are about their 'right' to drive, I cannot imagine GPs relishing being the one who forbids a patient from driving.
David, Suffolk

Agree (5) | Disagree (0)

As far as I am aware doctors currently have a duty to do as Graham says. However, probably often not undertaken very often.

Agree (7) | Disagree (0)

From the point of view of prescribed drugs it is time we backed the medical profession who should be able to say YOU MUST NOT drive whilst taking this course of treatment and if they said that it should be backed up by means of prosecution if they do. This does of course mean we need to be quite sure that the prescribed drugs are a real driving hazard.
Graham Feest

Agree (8) | Disagree (0)

Given the manner in which many drivers treat red and amber traffic lights, it seems a trifle ironic that they wish to see drugs labelled with a similar system. Humour aside, Keith raises a very valid point indeed.
David, Suffolk

Agree (7) | Disagree (0)

So what happens when someone is taking 2 or three drugs that are highlighted as green and amber, but when taken together potentially add up to a red light? A driver will believe they are safe to drive but unaware of the cumulative impact of prescribed drugs.

Agree (13) | Disagree (0)