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Using sleep medications increases the crash risk for drivers, study says

Based on the findings of one study, users of prescription sleep aids may have a greater crash risk, which may lead to serious injuries or death.

For any number of reasons, people in Washington and elsewhere commonly have trouble sleeping. In an effort to help them get the rest they need, people may be prescribed sleep medications. While using such drugs may improve their sleep, one study found that using sleeping pills may raise drivers' crash risk. As a result of such wrecks, they, their passengers or the occupants of the other vehicles involved may suffer serious injuries or death.

Sleeping pills are hypnotic, sedative medications. They work by suppressing some of the central nervous system's activities. In 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended cutting the dosages for these types of medications, according to a HealthDay report. This was because research has shown that these medications may stay in the bloodstream well after they should have worn off. This may result in impairments that hamper people's ability to drive safely the morning after using certain sleep medications.

Understanding the link between sleeping pill use and crash risk

A study was conducted by researchers from the University of Washington to examine how drivers are affected by the use of prescription sleep aids. The findings of the study were published in the American Journal of Public Health.

For the study, the researchers looked at the auto accident records for 409,171 people who had Washington state driver's licenses and who were enrolled in a state insurance plan. They also examined the prescription records for these drivers. Through the study, the researchers sought to understand the motor vehicle collision risk associated with the use of three of the most common prescription sleep aids - temazepam, trazodone and zolpidem.

Drivers who use sleeping pills have greater risk for collisions

Based on the study's findings, using commonly prescribed sleep aids increases people's risks of being involved in a car accident. According to NBC News, the researchers pointed out that users of these medications have a crash risk that is equal to that they would have if their blood alcohol concentration level was between 0.06 and 0.11 percent. These effects may wear off over time as people's bodies compensate for them or they get used to them.

NBC News reports the study showed the crash risk for drivers who use these medications may be up to three times greater than those who do not use sleeping pills. The study's findings confirm the previous recommendations by the FDA to reduce the dosage for these medications and to suggest people refrain from driving the morning after they have used a prescription sleep aid.

Working with an attorney

As a result of being involved in Washington motor vehicle collisions, people may suffer serious injuries. Consequently, they may need medical treatment, which may lead to unexpected medical bills. When such accidents are caused by drivers who are using sleeping pills, those motorists may be responsible for the resulting damages. Thus, those who have suffered injuries in such accidents may find it helpful to discuss their situation with a lawyer. An attorney may help them understand their rights, as well as explain their options for seeking financial justice.