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Hayfever medication that causes drowsiness could result in drug-driving conviction

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Motorists are aware of the fact that ‘driving under the influence’ could result in hefty fines and points on their licence – but a leading car insurance comparison site is warning drivers that there’s a risk they could end up committing this type of motoring offence without even realising it.

According to CompareNI.com, Northern Ireland’s largest insurance comparison site, the government legislation that bans driving while under the influence, does not distinguish between illicit drugs, prescription medication and over-the-counter medications.

This means any type of drug that affects a motorist’s driving abilities could potentially result in a drug-driving conviction, even if it’s something as simple as hay fever medication that causes drowsiness. One in four people in the UK has hay fever, which equates to approximately 16 million people.

Grass pollen is arguably the biggest cause of seasonal allergies, affecting approximately 90 per cent of hay fever sufferers – with peak season mid-May until July. Hay fever sufferers should check the following list before they consider driving:

  • Check your medication – antihistamines and hay fever medications can differ in strength, check with your doctor if in any doubt about possible side effects and always read the label – the warning, ‘do not operate heavy machinery’ is commonly found and applies to cars, forklifts and any other heavy machinery
  • Plan your journeys – check the Met Office Pollen warnings or download the weather app, which gives a 5 day forecast, for high pollen counts
  • Don’t take non-urgent journeys – if you don’t feel well or the pollen count is high, play it safe
  • Keep your car as pollen-free as possible – clean your car as much as possible to get rid of dust that could trigger symptoms before setting out, regularly change pollen filters in your car’s ventilation system and keep car windows closed during journeys
  • Drive safely – better to be on the side of caution, giving lots of space to fellow road users and taking breaks if hay fever symptoms start.

Greg Wilson, Founder of CompareNI.com, warns of the financial repercussions of ignoring this advice: “Most people assume that the term ‘drug-driving’ refers to driving while under the influence of illicit narcotics, but the truth is that driving after taking any type of drug, could result in a motoring conviction if the motorist’s driving abilities are impaired.

“While some hay fever medications are nondrowsy, some types do cause drowsiness, and some prescription hay fever tablets in particular carry a ‘do not operate heavy machinery’ warning. If a driver fails to obey this warning and gets behind the wheel they could risk a hefty fine of up to £5,000 as well as points on their licence.”

Tree pollen is typically from late March to mid-May, grass pollen lasts from mid-May until July then weed pollen tends to be from the end of June to September - dependent upon where you live in the Northern Ireland, for example urban areas like Belfast have lower counts than the countryside, and coastal areas like Bangor or Whitehead may have lower counts than inland.

CompareNI.com is Northern Ireland’s largest insurance comparison website, recommended by 98 per cent of reviewers, comparing products from hundreds of insurers across a wide range of products such as car insurancehomevan, and motorbike insurance.


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