When most people hear the dreaded words Driving under the Influence they see dollar signs because of the costs involved anymore. Organizations like M.A.D.D. and S.A.D.D. have done a terrific job of heightening awareness across the country on driving under the influence of alcohol. States like New Mexico have come the furthest but only because it seemed like they were a safe haven for drunk drivers. Today there is a new problem!
One of the unspoken related problems of drunk driving is drivers falling asleep while intoxicated. Now there is a new epidemic sweeping the country in the form of sleepwalking drivers-driving under the influence of the most popular prescription sleep medication in the U.S. - Ambien.
Drivers who are unaware they are asleep at the wheel are a rising threat on U.S highways according to a recent NY times article. In Washington State alone in 2005, for example, 78 impaired drivers were arrested, up from 56 the previous year, with Ambien in their bloodstream. According to the Times article, ten state toxicology labs that test for the presence of the drug rate it as one of the top ten found in impaired drivers yet most states do not even test for the drug. Ambien had 26.6 million prescriptions last year with $2.2 billion in sales according to the article.
According to the report, following their arrests many of the drivers claim to have no recollection of getting behind the wheel. In many of the cases the drug was taken incorrectly either as an overdose or in addition to other drugs such as alcoholHELLO!
Bizarre behavior often accompanies the misuse of the drug. The label warns of combining the drug with alcohol and possible sleepwalking side effects. Those warnings apparently have been relatively ineffective because broad misuse continues.
Additionally, sleep apnea and other sleep disorders which continue to grow in the U.S. provide another source of drivers falling asleep at the wheel. A study showed that people with sleep apnea were seven times more likely to have multiple car accidents.
So its not just your alcohol DUI any more. Drugs, legal and illegal, and a host of sleeping disorders are turning the streets into a nightmare for drivers falling asleep at the wheel all across the country.
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