Car Accidents Caused By Sleeping Pills On Rise.
Car accidents caused by sleeping pills have been causing headlines in recent years. In July 2012, Kerry Kennedy, the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, crashed her car on a New York highway. She told a jury that she accidentally took the prescription sleeping pill zolpidem, better known as Ambien, which she claimed “overtook” her while driving. Kennedy then slammed into a tractor-trailer on a New York interstate in the morning rush-hour traffic. Thankfully, no one was fatally injured in this accident.
During the trial Kennedy explained that on the morning of the car accident she had a breakfast of cappucino and carrots. She had to go through a “15 or 20 step process” to prepare the cappuccino on a complicated-sounding coffee maker, and in the process said she mistook Ambien for Synthoid, the medication she takes daily for an underactive thyroid.
“I know now thanks to the tox [toxicology] lab that I was taking my sleep medication by mistake,” she said.
The four men and two women on the panel spent less than an hour over two days deliberating a charge that could have sent Kennedy to jail for up to a year.
“We felt there was no real evidence presented to show where she could say, ‘I’m making a conscious decision, I know I’m impaired, but I’m making a conscious decision to keep driving’,” said juror David Luttkus, 67, of Briarcliff Manor.
Kerry Kennedy was ultimately found not guilty of drugged driving by a Westchester County jury.
Kerry Kennedy is not alone in her claim that Ambien lulled her into a trance-like state. Last year, 60 million Americans were prescribed a sleeping aid. As a result, car accidents caused by sleeping pills are on the rise in the United States. But for a drug that is supposed to help you sleep, it’s startling how lively you can be and not know it.
In fact, car accidents caused by sleeping pills is not the only type of accident that sedatives can cause. There are reports of a woman who learned she was “sleep cooking” and even fried an egg, while another woman woke up and found out she wasn’t even home. Kerry Kennedy’s cousin, former Rhode Island Rep. Patrick Kennedy crashed into a barrier near Capitol Hill, saying he had been disoriented after taking Ambien. The use of sleeping sedatives has also been linked to several wrongful death lawsuits.
Furthermore, a startling study was released this week, stating that sedative sleeping pills such as Ambien can nearly double the risk for car accidents among new users compared to non-users.
“This finding is shockingly not shocking. Sleeping pills are a huge problem,” said Dr. Christopher Winter, a spokesman for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.
The concern for car accidents caused by sleeping pills and Ambien and other sedatives have increased in recent years. To cut down on accidents linked to daytime drowsiness, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2013 required lower recommended doses of Ambien products, labeling changes and a recommendation to avoid driving the day after taking extended-release Ambien CR.
Overall, the risk of crashing related to use of these sedatives was similar to the crash risk associated with driving drunk, the researchers said.