NTSB Press Release

National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs


November 5, 2001

Washington D.C. - The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will come together to host a meeting examining the impact of prescription and over-the-counter medications on the performance and ability of vehicle operators. The joint meeting will be held in the NTSB Board Room and Conference Center on November 14 and 15, convening at 8:00 a.m. each day. Meeting attendance is open to the public and advance registration is not necessary.

Many widely used prescription and over-the-counter medications have long been known to cause drowsiness and/or impairment in users. In most cases, however, there is little guidance provided in laws, rules, instructions or labeling, to help people determine what medications could affect their ability to drive, fly, or operate a train or ship. Studies suggest, as with alcohol, an individual's perception of their level of impairment is not a good indicator of their actual impairment.

Since 1987 the Safety Board has investigated over 150 accidents, in all modes of transportation, involving vehicle operators who may have been impaired by prescription or over-the-counter medications. Recent accidents attributed in part to the use of legal medications include a June 1998 Greyhound bus crash in Burnt Cabins, Pennsylvania that killed 6 people. Toxicological testing revealed that the driver had recently taken an over-the-counter medication. In November 1999 three people were killed when a Beech 35 crashed in Newark, New Jersey. Evidence of a prescription medication used to treat migraines was revealed in post accident testing on the pilot. In both cases the NTSB determined that the use of medications was one of the factors in the accident.

This joint meeting is in response to recommendations the Safety Board made to the FDA on this subject in January 2000 asking that the FDA require the use of a clear and consistent warning label for all medications. Additional recommendations were also made to the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Transit Administration, Federal Railroad Administration, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the United States Coast Guard.

In addition to the NTSB and FDA, the meeting brings together experts on the subject from a variety of organizations including: the United States Department of Transportation; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, the military, a variety of international representatives and experts from the government, advocacy groups, unions, and the insurance industry. Participants will discuss various issues such as: The severity of the problem presented by medication and vehicle operators; criteria to determine a person's level of impairment; current regulations and realistic options for additional regulations; how the use of potentially impairing medications is handled in other countries; and possible warning labels for certain impairing medications. A portion of time will also be allotted each day for audience participation. If you wish to participate during this time, please contact the FDA as instructed in the Federal Register announcement.

More information regarding the November meeting, including a draft agenda, the January 2000 recommendations, and a link to the Federal Register announcement is available on the Safety Board's website at www.ntsb.gov. Click on the "FDA/NTSB Joint Public Meeting " link on the Home Page. The NTSB Board Room/Conference Center is located at 429 L'Enfant Plaza, Washington, D.C.

NTSB Office of Public Affairs: (202) 314-6100



The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause
of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families.