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NCEA health students study effects of medication on drivers


A health teacher has created and trialled a NCEA Level 3 assessment to get students analysing the issue of medications that may impair driving.

Many people are taking medications that may impair their driving ability without understanding the risks, making for a serious health issue.

Now the issue of substance impaired driving is being analysed by secondary students, as part of a wider awareness campaign led by the NZ Transport Agency.

Haley Charles

Haley Charles


Upper Hutt College teacher Haley Charles has written an NCEA Level 3 assessment resource that tasks students with analysing causes and effects and health strategies related to people driving with certain prescription and over the counter medicines.

Students at the college are taking part in lessons this term to trial the resource. This will lead into assessment for Achievement Standard Health 91461: Analyse a New Zealand health issue.

Context for curriculum

“It fits in so well with our level 3 achievement standard in terms of being an important health issue in New Zealand,” says Haley, who is teacher in charge of health.

“So many people in New Zealand are not aware of the issue of substance impaired driving, so I am doing my bit to change this.”

“The students have to look at why it’s a health issue by looking at statistics and evidence. They look at what causes the issue from a societal level and look at the consequences from a personal, interpersonal and societal perspective. Then they come up with strategies to remove the causal factors or determinants.”

Students spread the word

Early feedback from students is that the topic is interesting and engaging.

“The students, like many New Zealanders, were blown away that many prescription and over-the- counter medications can impair driving and about how many New Zealanders are on prescription medications” says Haley.

“The evidence shows that when New Zealanders are made aware, they want to make the right choices. Already, my students are talking about it at home and at work. I’ve got a couple of students who work at chemists and they are asking the pharmacists if they talk with customers about their medication and whether it’s safe to drive. So word of mouth is getting out there.”

Haley has designed the unit using SOLO Taxonomy, a simple model of learning that is helping her and her students find ways to extend their progress.

“SOLO gets my students to think at a much deeper level.”

The Transport Agency aims to make the curriculum resource available to all schools later this year.


Driving and medication

Prescription medicine fact.

It can be unsafe to drive when taking medication that may impair your driving ability. It’s also against the law to drive when you’re impaired.

  • 1 in 4 prescriptions are for medicines that can impair driving.
  • People should ask their doctor, pharmacist or nurse if they are safe to drive.
  • Research shows the chances of having a crash if you're impaired by medication are much higher than previously thought. The risk multiplies if you drink alcohol and drive while on medication.
  • In New Zealand 1 in 13 drivers killed on our roads were using strong medication that can impair driving at the time of their crash.

More information:

Are you safe to drive?(external link) (NZ Transport Agency)

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