In California, you can get a DUI for driving under the influence of which of the following substances?

  1. Alcohol
  2. Marijuana
  3. Illegal drugs
  4. Prescription medications
  5. Over-the-counter medications
  6. All of the above

Although DUIs are commonly associated with alcohol, driving under the influence of various drugs can also lead to a conviction—even if the drug in question is a perfectly legal prescription or over-the-counter medication.

If you picked answer choice F, all of the above, you got the question right.

Seniors and Medications

Older adults may be particularly vulnerable to the risks associated with drugged driving.

Many seniors take multiple prescriptions, and many of these prescriptions can cause driving impairment. Even medications that don’t cause impairment on their own might result in significant risks when combined with other medications.

According to the California DMV, common side effects include sleepiness, blurred vision, slower reaction times, lack of focus, nausea, dizziness and even fainting. Seniors should talk to their doctor about how medications might impact their ability to drive safely, and they should avoid driving when they know medications are affecting them.

The Roadside Rx online tool, developed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, makes it easy for drivers to see how their prescriptions might impair their driving ability. This is especially useful for seniors, but anyone taking multiple prescriptions may find it helpful.

California Law

Under California Vehicle Code 23152, it’s illegal for anyone under the influence of any drug to drive a vehicle. That’s right – any drug.

Although some people might be surprised to learn that their medication could lead to a DUI, it makes sense when you stop to think about it. Medications that make drivers drowsy or unable to focus are dangerous.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, one study found that 11 percent of fatal crashes involved a drugged driver, while another found that 18 percent of drivers killed in a crashes tested positive for at least one drug.

The California Driver Handbook states that any medication that comes with the warning that it may cause drowsiness or dizziness should not be taken before driving, and medications that commonly impact driving include the following:

  • Cold and allergy medications
  • Medications taken to calm nerves or relax muscles
  • Many medications when combined with alcohol
  • Energy pills and diet pills

Driving under the influence of marijuana, whether it’s recreational or medical, is also illegal. In fact, California law treats marijuana very similar to alcohol when it comes to driving, meaning it’s illegal to drive while high, but it’s also illegal to smoke or ingest marijuana while in a car, whether you’re the driver or a passenger.

Safety First

  • If you take any medications, check the label for warnings.
  • If you take multiple medications, find out what interactions are possible.
  • Don’t drive if a substance is impairing your ability to do so safely.