Around nine million Americans, or four percent of the population, reportedly use either sedatives or sleeping pills in order to get more rest. Studies have shown that drugs prescribed to treat insomnia (as well as other conditions like depression and anxiety) can significantly increase the risk of motor vehicle accidents. Preventing these types of accidents is one important reason why drunk and drugged driving laws prohibit people from driving while under the influence of a sleeping pill. These laws apply even if the person had a valid legal prescription for the pills.
Recently, the issue of drugged driving while on sleeping pills drew national attention when Kerry Kennedy faced criminal charges. Prosecutors alleged that she had continued to drive even after becoming aware that she was under the influence of the sleeping pill Zolpidem. She was acquitted of the charges after arguing that she had mistakenly taken the sleeping pill instead of another of her medications.
While a prosecutor could not prove criminal charges in court in this case, it still draws attention to the fact that even well-meaning people can get caught up in drunk driving as a result of using common medications. Victims of accidents with these drunk drivers should seek experienced legal help immediately.
Drugged Driving is Drunk Driving
Kennedy’s drug driving case arose from an accident that occurred in July of 2012. She swerved off the road in her Lexus SUV and crashed into a tractor-trailer. She did not dispute the fact that she drove erratically and she also did not dispute that she caused the incident, but she indicates that her behavior was caused by accidentally taking the sleeping pill. She said her memory of the incident ends right before she entered the highway and that the next thing she remembers is a man knocking on the window of her SUV.
Prosecutors expressed suspicion regarding her claims that she was unaware that the drug had caused her to be impaired, especially as she has taken the sleeping pill for 10 years. Prosecutors also indicated that they have a zero tolerance policy and they prosecute every drugged or drunk driving case where someone was over the limit. Kennedy, however, believed that the prosecution was “ill-advised” and that she was targeted because of who she was.
The reality, however, is that even mistakenly driving impaired can be considered a crime if the person acts with gross negligence or reckless disregard for the safety of others. While the prosecutors did not prove their case in this particular accident, prosecutors do need to take a tough approach to reduce the danger of people on drugs driving on the roads.
If you or a loved one was involved in a drunk driving accident in Massachusetts, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment — 1-888-367-2900.
More Blog Entries:
MADD Praises DADSS Research to Fight Drunk Driving Accidents, Boston Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Blog, January 8, 2014