UBC researchers identify the most dangerous prescriptions for B.C. drivers

Dr. Jeff Brubacher

Many common prescription medications are known to impair driving skills, yet their influence on collision risk has remained unclear. A team of UBC researchers led by Dr. Jeff Brubacher, an Associate Professor in UBC’s Department of Emergency Medicine, investigated the risk of collision responsibility associated with common classes of prescription medications.

The researchers studied prescription records and motor vehicle collisions over a 20-year period in B.C. This included almost five million drivers, more than 131 million prescriptions and over 600,000 collisions from January 1, 1997 to December 31, 2016.

The team evaluated the risk between drivers with an active prescription compared to drivers without a prescription. They also analyzed police reports to determine which drivers were responsible for collisions, and whether or not drug tolerance might play a factor.

Findings suggest an increased risk of collision responsibility in drivers prescribed sedating antipsychotics, long-acting benzodiazepines, short-acting benzodiazepines, and high-potency opioids. The study proposes that clinicians who prescribe these medications should regularly counsel patients on the risks of driving while using these medications, even for patients who have been on the medications for a long time.

This study was published Monday in Lancet Public Health.

A version of this story originally appeared on the UBC News website.