With winter fully upon us, the driving tips we discussed in our previous posts becomes ever important. Snow and ice provide substantial hazards, but drivers can stay safe by making sure they are awake and alert behind the wheel. Drowsy driving has become just as prominent an issue as distracted driving (e.g. texting and driving).
Recent news reports indicate that the popular sleep aid, Ambien, has been linked to a number of crashes across the United States. Studies have also shown that people are still not alert after taking the drug the night before. For these reasons, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recommended that dosages be reduced to lessen the risk of drowsy driving causing an accident.
Researchers found that people still had elevated levels of zolpidem (the active material in sleep aids) in their systems the morning after taking it, and that their ability to make split-second decisions were impaired. They believe that such an impairment is an inherent safety risk and could lead to more accidents.
The FDA recommended that zolpidem dosages be cut in half for women, and that packaging should be changed to advocate lower dosages for men. Researchers found that zolpidem dissipates at a slower rate for women, but they were not able to explain why.
The FDA will also test the recovery periods of future sleep medications by testing subjects in driving simulators. The Administration’s goal is to collect driving data on all sleep aids so that they can better assess next-day impairments.
In the meantime, drivers should be aware that sleep medications can have lasting effects, and should not operate a vehicle while still under the influence of such a drug.
Source: Health.com, FDA recommends lower Ambien dosage to prevent drowsy driving, January 11, 2013