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How Safe Are Drivers the Morning After Taking Sleep Aids?

Posted By Regan Zambri & Long || 28-Aug-2013

Posted by: Salvatore J. Zambri, founding member andpartner

Is there a possible link between sleep drugs and automobile accidents? Consumer advocates have long warned that there is. New evidence indicates that the effects of common prescription sleep aids do affect drivers the following day.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a consumer advisory in 2007 requesting that all manufacturers of sedative-hypnotic drugs strengthen their warning labels. By 2013, the FDA held additional sleep expert advisory committee meetings to determine the most effective labeling for sleep aids and whether banning direct-to-consumer advertising is advisable because of the possibility of next-day impairment. Residual next-day adverse effects were of concern, especially in dosing recommendations. Included in the discussions were phase three impaired driving studies in formal driving tests. One goal of the meeting was to decide how explicit labeling should be. As much labeling currently specifies, the burden is put upon patients to determine whether they are able to drive, when they are not necessarily reliable or able to determine that because of the drugs. As one of the clinical team leaders of the recent meeting indicated, "It would be so convenient and it would be so good if you could just tell people, don’t drive unless you feel O.K. I think this has penetrated now that this is not adequate. It is still good advice that, if you feel impaired, don’t drive. But if you feel fine, you might be impaired."

Recently, the FDA has decided to further review all insomnia drugs on the market and ask manufacturers for more extensive driving tests for all new sleep drugs. The agency also plans to more closely study any drug that causes drowsiness.

Since the White House Office of the National Drug Program has recently recommended that all states pass per se laws on drugs, states are left with the question of whether to include a prescription exception in their impairment laws. Although it has long been recognized that sleep deprivation and sleepiness lead to dangerous driving, it is important to also understand that the lingering side effects of taking a sleep aid may also lead to dangerous driving. Many questions remain unanswered about the specifics of how individuals react to sleep aids, but a real danger does exist.

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About the author:

Mr. Zambri is a board-certified civil trial attorney by the National Board of Trial Advocates and a Past-President of the Trial Lawyers Association of Metropolitan Washington, D.C. The association recently named him "Trial Lawyer of the Year" (2011). He has been rated by Washingtonian magazine as a "Big Gun" and among the "top 1%" of all lawyers in the Washington metropolitan area. The magazine also describes him as "one of Washington’s best–most honest and effective lawyers" who specializes in personal injury matters, including automobile accident claims, premises liability, product liability, medical malpractice, and work-accident claims. He has successfully litigated multiple cases against truck and bus companies, the Washington Metropolitan Area transit Authority, and other automobile owners. His law firm, in fact, has obtained the largest settlement ever in a personal injury case involving WMATA. Mr. Zambri has also been acknowledged as one of "The Best Lawyers in America" by Best Lawyers (2013 edition) and has been repeatedly named a "Super Lawyer" by Super Lawyer magazine (March/April 2013)– national publications that honor the top lawyers in America.

If you have any questions about your legal rights, please email Mr. Zambri at szambri@reganfirm.com or call him at 202-822-1899.

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