Study: New users of sleep aids have increased collision risk

One study found that new users of sleeping pills may be at an increased risk of getting into a wreck, which may result in serious injuries or death.

NBC News reports that sleep deprivation or sleep disorders affect anywhere from 50 to 70 million people across the U.S. Sometimes, doctors in Minnesota and elsewhere prescribe sleeping pills to people who are dealing with these types of ailments to help them get some much needed rest. Based on a recent study, however, using prescription sleep aids may increase drivers' risk of being involved in a motor vehicle crash.

Sleep medications work by suppressing some of the central nervous system's functions. These drugs stay in the system for an extended period of time, which may help people to stay asleep through the night. This may also cause impairments, such as slowed reaction times, that may contribute to collisions and lead to serious injuries or death for those involved.

Studying the link between crash risk and sleep aid use

Researchers from the University of Washington performed a study to estimate the link between the use of prescription sleeping pills and drivers' collision risk. They published their findings in the American Journal of Public Health. According to the study, the researchers analyzed the auto accident and prescription records for 409,171 licensed drivers in the state of Washington. They followed the participants until their deaths, they unenrolled from the state's health plan or the end of the study. Using proportional hazards regression, the researchers were able to estimate the prevalence of sleep aid-related crashes.

Using sleeping pills increases collision risk for drivers

The study showed that the risk of being involved in an auto accident for new users of sleep aids is nearly double that of motorists who do not use sleeping pills, according to the University of Washington HS NewsBeat. Based on the study's findings, the risk estimates of sleep medication use are akin to those experienced by drivers with a blood alcohol content level of between 0.06 percent and 0.11 percent. As people's bodies get accustomed to the effects of these medications or begin to compensate for them, their increased danger of being involved in a motor vehicle crash generally subsides.

Pursuing financial justice

Even if drivers in Minnesota are taking them as directed, using sleeping pills may put them and the others with whom they share the road in danger. Should people be injured in sleep aid-related collisions, they may lose income and incur undue medical expenses, among other damages. In some situations, however, the driver who caused the wreck may be held financially responsible. Therefore, it may benefit those who have suffered auto accident injuries to consult with a lawyer. An attorney may help them understand their options for seeking compensation, as well as determine if the use of a prescription sleep aid may have contributed to their crash.