For Immediate Release:
September 26, 2019

Tim Weisberg
OTS Marketing and Public Affairs
(916) 509-3020

New National Impaired Driving Campaign Addresses Prescription,

Over-the-Counter Medications

Elk Grove, Calif. – When taking over-the-counter (OTC) drugs or prescription medications with a “Do Not Operate Heavy Machinery” warning label, “heavy machinery” includes your car as well.

That is the message from a new impaired driving campaign launched Sept. 23 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that will run until Nov. 17. It is a message that the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) will be supporting to educate drivers on the types of drugs other than alcohol that can impact your ability to drive safely.

“Many people may be scratching their heads when they see a ‘do not operate heavy machinery’ warning on allergy medicine or a prescription from their doctor,” OTS Director Barbara Rooney said.

“But your car is ‘heavy machinery’. We hope this campaign makes the public think twice before they get in the car after using medications. A DUI doesn’t just mean booze.”

In a national roadside survey of drivers conducted by NHTSA in 2013 and 2014 during weekday daytime hours, 10% tested positive for the presence of a prescription or OTC drug.

The reality is that everyday OTC drugs like cold, allergy and sleep medicines can be impairing, as well as prescriptions for antidepressants, opioids and sleep aids. Use of these drugs can make you sleepy, affect judgment, reaction time and coordination, increasing the risk for crashes.

It is why the OTS will continue to prioritize funding to agencies for education and enforcement programs focused on drug-impaired driving. These programs include training for officers to detect and evaluate drivers suspected of being under the influence of drugs, staffing and training of prosecutors for drugged-driving cases, and partnerships with county agencies, local organizations and universities to educate youth and older populations on OTC/prescription drug use and driving.

The OTS encourages the public to avoid driving until you know how you react to OTC drugs or prescription medications, look for “do not operate heavy machinery”

warning labels, and follow instructions carefully. Some medications may be impairing if combined with a second medication. If you see someone driving impaired, call 9-1-1.

To learn more about the NHTSA campaign, visit You can view the information campaign videos on NHTSA’s YouTube channel.

For more information about ways to stay safe on the go, visit

The OTS administers funding for traffic safety programs statewide with the goal of reducing crashes that result in deaths, injuries, and economic losses. The OTS is a department under the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA).



Go Safely LogoReal ID logoRebuilding CA Report Drunk Drivers Click it or Ticket  Child Safety Seats Checks Register to Vote Flex Alert Amber Alert