Driver in Double Fatality Accused of Overusing Prescription Drugs

The driver of a pickup truck that collided with a car on Interstate 64 near Virginia Beach, killing a woman and her 12-year-old daughter, had an excessive concentration of prescription drugs in his system at the time, according to recent testimony.

The driver faces two charges of involuntary manslaughter in the accident, which took place in September 2013. A toxicology report revealed that he had an excessive amount of the painkiller tramadol in his system— three times more than the amount doctors typically prescribe to treat pain, the Virginian-Pilot reported recently. He also had taken cyclobenzaprine, a muscle relaxant that often increases the side effects of other drugs.

The pickup crossed the grassy median of the interstate and struck the oncoming car. Investigators said the truck was going about 70 mph at the time of the crash.  The posted speed limit on that stretch of I-64 is 55 mph.

The pickup has had numerous traffic citations in the past 10 years, the newspaper reported.

A report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration summarizes safety issues that arise from driving while taking prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Many common medications can affect a driver’s mental and physical state, and some medications can seriously impair a driver’s judgment, reaction time, and alertness.

Some painkillers, allergy remedies, muscle relaxants, antidepressants, and other medicines cause drowsiness, disorientation, and other side effects that seriously interfere with safe driving.

The report lists common side effects that increase a driver’s risk of getting into a car accident. They include:

  • Sleepiness
  • Fainting
  • Nausea
  • Impaired alertness and an inability to focus
  • Slowed movement and reaction time
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Blurred vision

The federal agency encourages all patients to talk with a doctor or pharmacist and read drug labels carefully before driving while taking medicine.