While most of us use cars to get from point A to point B on a daily basis, we sometimes take for granted just how dangerous the act of driving can be. When you do it every day, driving can seem like a mundane and easy task, but in reality, it requires sharp perception, clear vision, quick response time, and the ability to make split-second judgment calls. Above all, to keep yourself and your passengers safe, you need to be alert and in a stable physical and mental state when operating a vehicle.
Some contributing factors to being a safe driver include being sober, well-rested, and keeping distractions to a minimum (that means stay off your cell phones!). But what about certain medical conditions? Can those disqualify you from being fit to drive?
The short answer: yes. But which medical conditions can potentially cause you to be reckless and cause an accident? If you fall into one of the following categories, consult your doctor about your driving habits and whether or not they recommend you to stay behind the wheel, or move over to the passenger seat. Though giving up the freedom and independence that come along with driving may be upsetting, it's important to remember that it's for the safety of yourself and all others on the road.
If you have a sleep disorder.
The National Transportation Safety Board just released its 2019-2020 recommendations for safety improvements in transportation, and screening for obstructive sleep apnea made the list. Obstructive sleep apnea most commonly manifests as snoring, but when left untreated, it has the potential to affect you during waking hours as well. Symptoms like excessive daytime sleepiness and difficulty concentrating have the potential to affect your ability to stay awake and alert at the wheel and may deem you an unsafe driver.
Other sleep disorders like insomnia and narcolepsy also leave you feeling drowsy and may put you in danger of nodding off while driving. If you have a sleep disorder that affects your ability to concentrate, or even to stay awake during the day, you may not be medically fit to drive.
If you are prescribed medicine that can make you drowsy or have a substance dependency.
"Driving under the influence" doesn't just refer to alcohol. You are also at danger when driving under the influence of many prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and recreational drugs. This isn't just referring to heavy-duty narcotic pain pills, but also allergy medications like Benadryl, and cough medicines like Robitussin or Nyquil. Take a look at the fine print on the medication packaging to assess whether or not you should be driving while taking it. If it says, "Do not use while operating heavy machinery," you shouldn't be driving.
If you have noticed changes in motor, cognitive, or sensory abilities due to aging.
While there is no age limit on driving, the reality of life is that aging can take a toll on certain mental and physical capacities that you need to be a safe driver. In some states, there are limitations in place for people over a certain age to renew their license, such as providing a doctor's note saying they are medically fit to drive or taking a vision exam. However, if you are a senior citizen, it is extremely important to practice self-awareness in your ability to operate a vehicle safely. Check out this self-rating tool created by AAA to assess whether or not you should continue to drive, as well as some tips for being a better and safer driver.
If you have certain severe symptoms of diabetes.
According to the CDC, over 100 million Americans have diabetes or prediabetes. These conditions don't necessarily disqualify you from driving, but there are specific symptoms of severe diabetes which may make you a danger on the road. With hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, you may feel shaky or tired, have impaired judgment and coordination, and in very severe cases, suffer from paralysis or seizures. If you have hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, the risks are less, but it may cause fatigue, as well as blurry vision. If you have any of these severe symptoms, you may not be fit to drive.
If you have a neurological condition such as epilepsy, dementia, or cognitive impairment due to another cause.
Depending on which state you live in, there are certain limitations to driving with epilepsy. Generally, you have to be seizure-free for six months to one year in order to drive legally. You can check your state's laws here.
If you or your loved one suffer from dementia, it may not immediately disqualify you from driving, but since it is a progressive disease, symptoms like memory loss, visual-spatial disorientation, and decreased cognitive function will get worse as time goes on, which will, in turn, affect the ability to drive safely. Close monitoring of symptoms and assessment of driving capabilities is crucial to keeping our roads safe. If you are unsure whether you or your loved one should continue driving, you can arrange for an independent driving evaluation through driver rehabilitation programs or at the DMV.
Sinclair Broadcast Group is committed to keeping our viewers accident-free, which is why we initiated the Drive Safe campaign. Steer clear of danger with our monthly tips.