Most California drivers understand that the state’s DUI laws make it illegal to operate a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or illicit drugs. However, individuals may not realize that there are many over-the-counter medications that may affect their ability to drive. Taking any sort of drug may impair a person’s faculties enough that they incur DUI penalties. 

Many over-the-counter medicines have potential side effects that could negatively impact an individual’s ability to drive safely. For example, WebMD states that daytime cold medicine may cause dizziness, nausea and drowsiness. Any one of these side effects may impair a person’s ability to operate a car safely. In many cases, dizziness or drowsiness may become more severe if a person consumes alcohol or marijuana along with cold medicine. The labels of most prescription and nonprescription drugs include language warning individuals not to drive after taking the medicine. 

The California Driver Handbook states plainly that the state’s DUI laws include both alcohol- and drug-related impairment. Moreover, the text of the legal code does not include any language that distinguishes between illicit drugs, prescription medications and nonprescription medicines. An individual may face DUI charges for driving after consuming any medication that affects his or her ability to drive even if he or she obtained the drug legally and followed dosing instructions correctly. This means that an individual could get a DUI conviction after consuming something as common as nonprescription cold medicine if the drug’s side effects reduce his or her ability to drive safely. The California Driver Handbook states that individuals should not consume any drug that has the potential to cause dizziness or drowsiness before driving.