Background: Psychomotor studies suggest that commonly prescribed psychoactive drugs impair driving skills. We have examined the association between the use of psychoactive drugs and road-traffic accidents. Methods: We used dispensed prescribing as a measure of exposure in a within-person case-crossover study of drivers aged 18 years and over, resident in Tayside, UK, who experienced a first road-traffic accident between Aug 1, 1992, and June 30, 1995, and had used a psychoactive drug (tricyclic antidepressant, benzodiazepine, selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitor, or other psychoactive drug [mainly major tranquillisers]) between Aug 1, 1992, and the date of the accident. For each driver, the risks of having a road-traffic accident while exposed and not exposed to a drug were compared. Findings: 19,386 drivers were involved in a first road-traffic accident during the study period. 1731 were users of any study drug. On the day of the accident, 189 individuals were taking tricyclic antidepressants (within-patient exposure odds ratio for an accident 0.93 [95% CI 0.72-1.21]), 84 selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (0.85 [0.55-1.33]), 235 benzodiazepines (1.62 [1.24-2.12]), and 47 other psychoactive drugs (0.88 [0.62-1.25]). The risk associated with benzodiazepine use decreased with increasing driver's age and was greater when the breath test for alcohol was positive. A dose-response relation was evident with benzodiazepines. The increased risk with benzodiazepines was significant for long-half-life drugs, used as anxiolytics, and for short-half-life hypnotics (all zopiclone). Interpretation: Users of anxiolytic benzodiazepines and zopiclone were at increased risk of experiencing a road-traffic accident. Users of anxiolytic benzodiazepines and zopiclone should be advised not to drive.
Barbone, F., McMahon, A. D., Davey, P. G., Morris, A. D., Reid, I. C., McDevitt, D. G., & MacDonald, T. M. (1998). Association of road-traffic accidents with benzodiazepine use. Lancet, 352(9137), 1331-1336. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(98)04087-2