When temperatures drop and summer ends, cold and flu season is just getting started. While you may associate this time of year with coughing, sneezing and a whole lot of tissues or cough drops, seasonal illnesses can have unexpected consequences.
In fact, you can end up being charged with driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs just because you have an unfortunate reaction to over-the-counter medications taken to combat cold or flu symptoms.
How is that possibly fair?
It’s all about safety. Under South Carolina law, it’s illegal for anybody to drive “under the influence of any other drug or a combination of other drugs or substances which cause impairment to the extent that the person’s faculties to drive a motor vehicle are materially and appreciably impaired.”
In other words, it doesn’t matter if you’re under the influence of some kind of illicit drug or a commonly used cough syrup. It doesn’t matter if you have a prescription or if the drug is available from the drugstore shelves. The only real consideration is whether or not the drug affects you in a way that makes you unsafe behind the wheel.
Cold medications often contain decongestants and antihistamines that can make people feel lightheaded or sleepy, while cough syrups can even have significant amounts of alcohol in them. In the rush to relieve your symptoms and get back to your daily routine, you (like most people) may ignore those warnings on the drug’s label that tell you not to drive or operate heavy machinery until you know how you react to the medication. Used alone or with other drugs, the medications can leave you far too impaired to drive.
If you’re pulled over because of a traffic mistake or because you’re driving erratically, admitting to the fact that your medication is making you loopy won’t gain an officer’s sympathy. In fact, the only thing it’s likely to do is hasten your way to DUI charges. If you find yourself in that unfortunate position, the wisest move you can make is to seek legal assistance as you explore all your defense options.