Prescribed drugs cause 3 percent of French car crashes

Mon Nov 15, 2010 5:04pm EST
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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Prescribed drugs are responsible for more than three percent of road crashes in France and an international system should be agreed to warn of the risks of driving on medication, scientists said on Monday.

In France, the effects of drugs on driving performance are classified into 4 levels of risk, from level 0, which signifies negligible or no risk, to level 3 which signifies major risk.

Researchers studied 72,685 drivers who were injured in road traffic crashes in France between July 2005 and May 2008 and found that those who had been prescribed level 2 or 3 drugs were more likely to have been at fault in the crash.

The proportion of crashes attributable to the use of level 2 and 3 medicines was 3.3 percent, they said.

The European Union is currently aiming to harmonize drug classification systems to warn consumers of their potential effect on driving. The researchers behind this study said it showed the French ranking system would be a good basis for an international system.

"These results provide strong evidence for the contribution of medicines to the risk of experiencing a road traffic crash and also confirm that the French drug risk classification scheme seems accurate," the researchers, led by Ludivine Orriols of the University Victor Segalen in France, wrote in their study in the Public Library of Science (PLoS) Medicine journal.

They also said the findings reinforced "the need for health care workers to provide patients with proper information on the potential effect of any medicine that they are prescribed, or take, on their driving abilities."

(Reporting by Kate Kelland, editing by Paul Casciato)