It’s cold season. This means a lot of people will be treating their sore throats and stuffy noses with cold medicine. But did you know that taking cold medicine can increase your risk of a car crash? That’s because many cold medicines can impact a person’s ability to drive safely.

Drug-impaired driving leads to crashes – and arrests.

The problem isn’t confined to cold medicine. Some over-the-counter allergy medications, for example, can also cause drowsiness. Prescription drugs – including painkillers, anti-anxiety medications and muscle relaxers – can also affect alertness, concentration and reaction time.

  • The number of fatal crashes linked to prescription painkillers has increase seven times amid the opioid epidemic, according to CBS News.
  • The majority of states have legalized medical marijuana, but research indicates a correlation between legal weed and an increase in crashes, according to NBC News.
  • A man in Texas was sentenced to 55 years in prison for a causing a crash that killed 13 people. According to S. News, the man was under the influence of marijuana and a prescription sedative at the time of the crash.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, impaired driving is illegal in every state in the country. It doesn’t matter whether the impairment is caused by illegal street drugs or legal medications. Any drug that causes impairment, including prescriptions and over-the-counter medications, should not be taken while driving.

Seniors are especially at risk.

New research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has uncovered some troubling statistics regarding senior drivers and drug-impaired driving. According to the findings, almost half of older active drivers are taking at least seven medications, and close to 20 percent of older drivers are taking medications that should be avoided. This is especially worrisome considering that when two or more medications are taken together, drug interactions can make impairment even worse.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse says that more than a quarter of drugged drivers involved in fatal crashes were aged 50 or older. In addition to the risks caused by combining medications, seniors may be unable to metabolize drugs as quickly as younger individuals, and mental decline may cause some seniors to take the wrong dose.

Don’t risk it.

Although many medications can seem harmless, if they impair your ability to drive safely, the danger is real. Don’t risk a DUI conviction or a crash.

  • Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about drug effects and interactions.
  • Read the warning labels on your prescription and over-the-counter medications.
  • Pay attention to how medications affect you.
  • Use the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s Roadwise RX online tool to see how your medications might interact.

Most importantly, play it safe. If you think a medication is impairing your driving ability, don’t drive.