Hospital outpatients' responses to taking medications with driving warnings

Smyth, Tanya L., Sheehan, Mary C., & Siskind, Victor (2013) Hospital outpatients' responses to taking medications with driving warnings. Traffic Injury Prevention, 14(1), pp. 18-25.

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The study investigates the knowledge, intentions, and driving behavior of persons prescribed medications that display a warning about driving. It also examines their confidence that they can self-assess possible impairment, as is required by the Australian labeling system.


We surveyed 358 outpatients in an Australian public hospital pharmacy, representing a well-advised group taking a range of medications including those displaying a warning label about driving. A brief telephone follow-up survey was conducted with a subgroup of the participants.


The sample had a median age of 53.2 years and was 53 percent male. Nearly three quarters (73.2%) had taken a potentially impairing class of medication and more than half (56.1%) had taken more than one such medication in the past 12 months. Knowledge of the potentially impairing effects of medication was relatively high for most items; however, participants underestimated the possibility of increased impairment from exceeding the prescribed dose and at commencing treatment. Participants' responses to the safety implications of taking drugs with the highest level of warning varied. Around two thirds (62.8%) indicated that they would consult a health practitioner for advice and around half would modify their driving in some way. However, one fifth (20.9%) would drive when the traffic was thought to be less heavy and over a third (37.7%) would modify their medication regime so that they could drive. The findings from the follow-up survey of a subsample taking target drugs at the time of the first interview were also of concern. Only just over half (51%) recalled seeing the warning label on their medications and, of this group, three quarters (78%) reported following the warning label advice. These findings indicated that there remains a large proportion of people who either did not notice or did not consider the warning when deciding whether to drive. There was a very high level of confidence in this group that they could determine whether they were personally affected by the medication, which may be a problem from a safety perspective.


This study involved persons who should have had a very high level of knowledge and awareness of medication warning labeling. Even in this group there was a lack of informed response to potential impairment. A review of the Australian warning system and wider dissemination of information on medication treatment effects would be useful. Clarifying the importance of potential risk in the general community context is recommended for consideration and further research.

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2 citations in Web of Science®

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ID Code: 67134
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: medication, warnings, traffic safety, driving, Australia
DOI: 10.1080/15389588.2012.684224
ISSN: 1538-9588
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > PUBLIC HEALTH AND HEALTH SERVICES (111700)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety - Qld (CARRS-Q)
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Current > Schools > School of Psychology & Counselling
Deposited On: 26 Feb 2014 04:34
Last Modified: 26 Feb 2014 21:22

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