Potentially Driver-Impairing (PDI) Medication Use in Medically Impaired Adults Referred for Driving Evaluation

Amanda J. Hetland, David B. Carr, Michael J. Wallendorf, Peggy P. Barco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background: Potentially driver-impairing (PDI) medications have been associated with poorer driving performance and increased risk of motor vehicle collision. Objectives: To describe the frequency of medication use and to determine the association between routine use of PDI medications and performance on driving and cognitive tests. Methods: A total of 225 drivers with medical impairment (mean age 68 ± 12.8 years, 62.2% male) were referred to an occupational therapy-based driving evaluation clinic. Medication lists were reviewed to identify PDI drugs, as defined by a previous study examining medications and crash risk. Outcome variables included road testing on the modified Washington University Road Test and cognitive scores on Trail Making Test Parts A and B, Snellgrove Maze Task, Clock Drawing Task, Driving Health Inventory (DHI) Useful Field of View, DHI Motor Free Visual Perceptual Test, Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS), Geriatric Depression Scale, and Functional Assessment Questionnaire. Results: PDI medication use was documented in 68.9% of the sample, with the average subject taking 1.4 PDI drugs. Drivers taking routine PDI medications had a mean ESS score of 7.8 compared to 6.0 in the control group, suggesting increased somnolence (P =.007). Total number of routine medications, regardless of PDI designation, also correlated positively with ESS scores (P =.023). Conclusions: Use of PDI medications was associated with informant ratings of daytime drowsiness on the ESS, which has been linked to motor vehicle crash risk. Further investigation of individual drug classes is warranted using larger sample sizes and a high-powered study design.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)476-482
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of Pharmacotherapy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2014


  • driving safety
  • drugs and driving
  • medically impaired drivers
  • older adult drivers
  • potentially driver-impairing medications


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