Study: Drivers who use prescription sleep aids have increased crash risk

A recent study found new users may be at an increased risk of being involved in a motor vehicle accident, which might result in serious injuries or death.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, an average of 219 people across the state suffered injuries in auto accidents every day in 2014. Many people are aware that drinking alcohol or using illegal drugs may increase their risk of being involved in a motor vehicle collision. However, drivers often overlook the dangers involved with driving and using certain prescription medications, such as sleeping pills. According to a study that was recently published in the American Journal of Public Health, the use of sleeping pills may drastically raise people's risk of getting into a car wreck.

Sleeping pills are sedative, hypnotic medications that suppress some activities in the central nervous system. Prior research found that sleep aids may remain in people's bloodstreams into the morning. NBC News reported that this may interfere with their ability to drive, and thus, may contribute to them being involved in a crash, which may lead to serious injuries or death. Based on these findings, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended reducing the dosages for these medications.

Studying the crash risk for sleeping pill users

Researchers from the University of Washington conducted a study to understand how the use of prescription sleep aids affect drivers. For the study, they looked at the prescription and motor vehicle collision records for 409,171 Washington residents. Those included in the study were people who were 21-years-old or older, who had a state driver's license and who were enrolled with drug benefits in a state insurance plan. The researchers sought to examine the crash risk associated with the use of three commonly prescribed sleep medications - zolpidem, trazodone and temazepam.

Sleeping pill use increases crash risk for drivers

The study showed that using sleeping pills may increase the chances of people getting into motor vehicle accidents. Further, it confirms the FDA's recommendations to cut back the dosage for these medications. According to a University of Washington HSNewsBeat report, the auto collision risk for new users of all three sleep aids was nearly doubled. The increased odds of being involved in a crash may last for up to one year of continuous prescription sleep aid use.

NBC News reported that using these sleeping pills create a crash risk estimate akin to having a 0.06 to 0.11 percent blood alcohol concentration level. Based on these findings, the use of such medications may put drivers and their passengers in danger, as well as the occupants of the vehicles with whom they are sharing the road.

Seeking legal guidance

When Pennsylvanians are involved in auto accidents, they may suffer serious injuries that require extensive medical treatment and recovery time. This may result in them incurring undue medical costs and losing income. If such collisions are caused by a driver who uses a prescription sleep aid, he or she may be held liable, depending on the circumstances. Therefore, people who have been injured in situations such as this may benefit from consulting with an attorney. A lawyer may help them understand their rights and explain their options for pursuing compensation.