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New Study Reveals Psychotropic Drugs Cause Car Accidents

January 09, 2013

A new study reveals that prescription psychotropic drugs used to treat anxiety, depression and insomnia impair driving ability and increase the risk of car accidents. The findings published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology provides new evidence that driving under the influence of drugs like Ambien, Sonata, Lunesta and Imovane (collectively referred to as “Z-drugs”) contributes to an increased risk of causing a car accident. The authors of the study recommend that drivers consider staying off the road when taking these medications.

The research is founded on the understanding that psychotropic medications impact the functioning of the brain, which can have an adverse impact on driving ability. While prior studies have focused on the impact of benzodiazepines, such as diazepam (Valium), the objectives of this new research was to determine the effects of a broader range of prescription medications on driving and accident rates.

The data involved in the report included comparisons of over 35,000 drivers involved in car accidents. The report revealed that a disproportionate number of those involved in collisions were impacted by Z-drugs. The frequency of auto accidents involving patients treated with these types of drugs was comparable to those of drivers being treated with benzodiazepines, which have a well-established adverse impact on driving ability. The results also indicated that higher dosage levels corresponded with an increased risk of car accidents.

Drivers who cause car accidents when driving under the influence of psychotropic drugs may be liable for the injuries caused. Although these Z-drugs and anti-depressants typically have labels warning patients not to operate heavy machinery while under the influence of the drug, many drivers disregard this danger and needlessly put other drivers, passengers, motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians at risk.

Although the majority of motorists understand that drivers impaired by alcohol and illegal narcotics pose a serious danger to other vehicle occupants, the impact of prescription drugs is sometimes overlooked or discounted. The widespread use and abuse of prescription medications that impair driving ability is playing an increasing role in causing car accidents resulting in severe injury and wrongful death.

A study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) revealed that 16 percent of drivers surveyed were impaired by illegal, prescription and over-the-counter drugs. However, prescription drug abuse is rising at an exponential rate so it is presumed that a significant percentage of drivers are impaired by prescription drugs.

These drugs may impair perception, alertness, reflexes, decision-making and judgment so the decision to drive while taking these medications may constitute negligence. However, personal injury claims and lawsuits involving drugged drivers are complicated by the fact that there is no “per se” amount of a particular prescription drug that constitutes impaired driving. Further, these cases also are complicated by the challenge of determining whether a driver was actually experiencing the effects of a prescription medication when driving because the medications may remain in one’s blood for a prolonged period.

Our Atlanta accident lawyers are available to assist clients facing these challenges throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Auto Accidents

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