In 1630, a Polish physician named Jan Jonston reported an incident where a sleep-walking Parisian man swam across a river with his sword and killed a gentleman whom he had planned to murder the previous day. After the killing, the man returned home (sword-slinging and river-crossing), and got back into his bed without awakening even for a single moment during the entire event. Though this may sound a bit crazy for today's standards, it's not. There are people sleep-walking, sleep-eating, and sleep-driving all around us and we may not even know it. Why the surge of people performing tasks while sleeping?
Ambien (zolpidem) is a drug commonly prescribed to treat insomnia. It is the United States' best-selling prescription medication for sleep problems, with an average of over 26 million prescriptions administered per year. The drug seems to work well for initiating sleep, but it does have some significant side effects. Some of these side effects include hallucinations, anterograde amnesia, sleep-walking, delusions, and ataxia. These side effects are extremely dangerous when operating a motorized vehicle, as they turn the driver into a zombie-like creature with no recollection of what is happening.
Driving under the influence of Ambien causes extreme impairment to the driver, especially when the drug is mixed with alcohol. It can cause the driver to operate their vehicle in the state of somnambulism, better known as "sleep-walking." When these drivers are sleep-driving, they tend to do things such as drive into stationary objects or drive on the wrong side of the road, much like a driver under the influence of alcohol. In addition to extremely impairing the driver, driving under the influence of Ambien and other sleep medications are impairing the Courts.
There isn't a whole lot of case law relating to driving under the influence of sleep medications; therefore there is a lack of precedence and guidance relating to the matter. Common sense and the Food and Drug Administration will tell us to not take Ambien and drive, but as we all know, it happens. If it happens to you, let's hope that you have the business card of a good attorney. Call The Johanson Law Group today.