Motorists in the Australian state of Queensland do not devote any attention to medication warning labels and are potentially driving drug-impaired, despite the threat of drowsiness and increased crash risk, according to a new study.

The study by Queensland University of Technology’s centre for accident research and road safety on 325 drivers who were taking medication, compared the effectiveness of Australia’s labels about driving, with the newly-introduced colour-coded labels used in France.

The study revealed that the drivers had a greater awareness about the risk of crashes after reading the strongest French warning label, compared with the strongest Australian label.

Australia’s labelling system provides a thorough written explanation about the medication and its effects while France’s warning labels use a tiered categorisation system that includes a pictogram with different colours to represent the different levels of risk from the medication.

In France, labels also urge the driver to talk to their doctor or pharmacist before getting behind the wheel, but in Australia, one of the drawbacks of the label has been the driver’s requirement to self-assess their level of impairment and their affected status.

The study notes these decisions by drivers may not be correct, especially in light of the results that show that text warnings on labels fail to convey the level of risk involved with driving under the influence of certain medication, which have the potential to cause drowsiness.