Almost half of older drivers on the road take seven or more medications each day, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. And among those drivers, nearly 20 percent of them take medicine that either has limited benefit or could cause harm, the organization said.
And some of these drugs - they're known as potentially inappropriate medications, or PIMs - carry risks of blurred vision, fatigue, confusion or a loss of coordination. With that, comes an increased risk of a crash - a 300 percent increase, the foundation reported.
The group said more than 200,000 drivers who were 65 and older were injured in accidents. Among them, 3,500 died.
AAA said there are 42 million people who are at least 65 who drive, and that number is expected to go up over the next 10 years. By then, seniors are projected to be the largest group of drivers.
"There is a growing population of older drivers who use multiple medications and likely do not realize the impact these prescriptions may have on their driving," said the executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. "This new research shows that the more medications an older driver takes, the more likely they are to use an inappropriate medication that can potentially cause driving impairment."
The research conducted by the AAA Foundation, in conjunction with university researchers, found that the medications that older drivers reported taking most often can affect their ability to drive. Those included prescriptions to treat heart and blood vessel conditions (73%) and central nervous system drugs such as anti-anxiety medications and pain relievers (70%).
AAA urged older drivers to ask their doctors about each medication prescribed and the potential side effects that could impair their driving. There could be alternative medicines available, or risks could be reduced by changing the dosage or the time of day the drug is taken.
Many seniors are experienced, capable drivers. Others probably should leave the driving to others. An accident with a senior driver could leave other drivers or their passengers with serious injuries or worse.
Anyone who is injured in an accident that wasn't their fault should contact an attorney to protect their rights and discuss their next step.