Study links new sleeping pill use with increased crash risk

Many people use prescription sleep aids to get the rest they need, but a study found these medications may increase their crash risk.

Sleep disorders or deprivation affect an estimated 50 to 70 million people across the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To get the rest they need, many people in West Virginia and elsewhere take prescription sleeping pills, such as Ambien, Oleptro and Restoril. While these medications may help them rest, a study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that new use of such drugs is associated with an increased motor vehicle crash risk.

Examining the link between sleep aid use and crash risk

Previously, research found sleeping pills may remain in the bloodstream in elevated levels well into the morning after they are taken. These findings prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to issue warnings about prescription sleeping aids in 2013. The agency suggested physicians should prescribe as low a dose as possible and advised the drug manufacturers to lower the recommended dosages.

A group of University of Washington researchers conducted a study, gathering information on three commonly prescribed sleep medications - trazodone, temazepam and zolpidem. They sought to determine the link between motor vehicle collision risk and the use of sedative hypnotic medications. To this end, they examined the health care, driver's license and collision records for 409,171 people aged 21-years or older between the years 2003 and 2008. Conducting a new user cohort study, the researchers calculated their estimates using proportional hazards regression.

Sleeping pill use may interfere with driving

Relative to motorists who do not use prescription sleeping pills, the study found new users of these medications have an increased risk of being involved in collisions. Such collisions may result in serious injuries for those using the sleep aids or their passengers, as well as the occupants of the other vehicles involved. The researchers point out their risk estimates are the same as those associated with blood alcohol concentration levels between 0.06 and 0.11 percent.

Based on the study's findings, drivers who use the medication zolpidem, sold under the brand name Ambien, had the most significant crash risk. Over the five years studied, Ambien users were two times as likely to be involved in a motor vehicle collision as drivers who did not take sleep aids. Compared to non-sleeping pill users, people who took trazodone, commonly sold as Oleptro or Desyrel, had a 91 percent higher crash risk. The risk of getting into a collision was 27 percent higher for motorists who use temazepam, sold as Restoril.

Seeking legal action

Whether the result of sleeping pill use or due to some other factor, impaired, inattentive, or distracted drivers in West Virginia cause auto collisions that result in serious injuries and sometimes death. Those who are injured may require significant medical treatment and time away from work in order to recover from their injuries, which results in unexpected medical expenses and lost income.

The attorneys at Farmer, Cline & Campbell are experienced in investigating collisions caused by drivers whose medication or medical conditions cause erratic or unsafe driving. If you have been injured in a motor vehicle collision and you suspect the other driver was impaired, inattentive, or distracted due to sleeping pills or some other reason, contact Farmer, Cline & Campbell to speak with a legal representative who can help you understand your rights and options, and guide you through the legal process.