Taking medicine and driving — drugged driving — can be every bit as dangerous as drunk driving, according to New Jersey experts.

The recent story of golf champ Tiger Woods, stopped last Monday in Florida and charged with driving under the influence of meds, focuses attention on this problem of driving drugged. Police video of Woods' traffic stop shows him admitting to the arresting officer that he was under the influence of four different medications.

Dr. Bruce Ruck, director of Drug Information and Professional Education for the New Jersey Poison and Education System, says with the allergy season here, many sufferers seeking relief may be unaware of side effects.

"One of the major side effects for over-the-counter medications for allergy season is tiredness, sedation, and the inability to coordinate your reflexes properly sometimes."

And that can be a big problem for anyone operating a vehicle.

"So people may not be as fast on their brake or sharp in their eyesight, and we worry about people using various medication and driving or working any kind of machinery."

Ralph Blackman, president and CEO of Responsibility.org, a group that has been fighting the battle against teen drinking and driving for over 23 years, says, "as drunk driving has declined, drugged driving has increased dramatically and many of today's impaired drivers are combining two or more substances, which has a multiplicative effect on driver impairment."

According to Ruck, it is extremely important to read product labels for prescription and non-prescription meds.

"You need to ask your healthcare professional, your pharmacist about what is the best product [to use while driving], whether it is over-the-counter or prescription."

He says you can also call the New Jersey Poison Information Center for help at 1-800-222-1222.

Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5.

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