NTSB, FDA to examine effects of medication on drivers

| 11/7/2001

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are scheduled to co-host a meeting Nov. 14 and 15 examining the impact of prescription and over-the-counter medications on the performance and ability of vehicle operators. Meeting attendance is open to the public and advance registration is not necessary.

Many widely used prescription and over-the-counter medications have long been known to cause drowsiness and/or impairment in users. In most cases, however, there is little guidance provided in laws, rules, instructions or labeling, to help people determine what medications could affect their ability to drive, fly, or operate a train or ship. Studies suggest, as with alcohol, an individual's perception of their level of impairment is not a good indicator of their actual impairment.

Since 1987 the Safety Board has investigated more than 150 accidents, in all modes of transportation, involving vehicle operators who may have been impaired by prescription or over-the-counter medications. Recent accidents attributed in part to the use of legal medications include a June 1998 Greyhound bus crash in Burnt Cabins, PA, that killed six people. Toxicological testing revealed that the driver had recently taken an over-the-counter medication. NTSB determined that the use of medications was one of the factors in the accident.

This joint meeting is in response to recommendations the Safety Board made to the FDA on this subject in January 2000 asking that the FDA require the use of a clear and consistent warning label for all medications. Additional recommendations were also made to the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Transit Administration, Federal Railroad Administration, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the United States Coast Guard.

The joint meeting will be held in the NTSB Board Room/Conference Center, convening at 8:00 a.m. each day. More information about the meeting is available on the Safety Board's web site at www.ntsb.gov. Click on the "FDA/NTSB Joint Public Meeting " link. The meeting place is located at 429 L'Enfant Plaza, Washington, DC.