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Can taking cold medicine lead to DUI charges?

On Behalf of | Jun 4, 2024 | DWI Defense |

Colds are a fact of life for many people. Unfortunately, cold medicine can impair a person’s ability to drive safely.

Taking such medication can even lead to DUI charges.

Effects of cold medicine on driving

Many cold medicines contain ingredients that can cause drowsiness, dizziness and slowed reaction times. For example, antihistamines such as diphenhydramine often have sedative effects. Decongestants, which often contain pseudoephedrine, can cause jitteriness and affect concentration. Cough suppressants with dextromethorphan can impair motor skills and judgment.

When someone takes cold medicine and then drives, they might experience these side effects. They can be similar to those caused by alcohol or drugs. A police officer suspecting impairment may conduct a traffic stop and perform field sobriety tests.

New Jersey DUI laws and medication

New Jersey law prohibits driving while impaired by any substance, including legally obtained medications. The law does not distinguish between different types of substances. The key factor is whether a substance impairs the driver’s ability to operate the vehicle safely.

A driver arrested for DUI due to medication impairment faces the same penalties as those impaired by alcohol. These penalties can include fines, license suspension and even jail time, depending on the severity of the offense and whether it is a repeat offense.

Preventing medication-related DUIs

To avoid the risk of a DUI charge from cold medicine, read and follow the warnings on medication labels. If a medicine causes drowsiness or other side effects that impair driving, arrange alternative transportation. Pharmacists can help with nondrowsy alternatives.

Being aware of how medications affect the body can keep people safe and help drivers avoid serious legal consequences.