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FDA examining safety of sleep aids and driving

It's normal to feel a little drowsy on the morning commute while your coffee is still kicking in, but for Chicago residents who use sleep aids, being drowsy may be more of a cause for concern. 

About 60 million prescriptions for sleep aids were written last year. According to recent information released by the Food and Drug Administration, many people who use sleep aids at night may experience sedation into the morning, even if they only feel a little groggy or do not think that they are impaired. This can present a serious hazard behind the wheel. It is so serious that the F.D.A. is now factoring in driving safety when considering new medications for approval for sale, and regulators are revising doses with driver safety in mind. 

Popular sleep aids like Ambien and others do come with warnings about driving on the packaging, but those warnings are so ubiquitous that it can be hard for patients to know the true extent of the impairment. Also, since sleep aids effect all patients a little differently, people who are new to the medication should test it out for a period of time when they do not need to get behind the wheel in the near future. 

For all the FDA concerns and warnings, the burden is still on individuals to make sure that they are behaving responsible and not putting themselves or others on the road at an unreasonable risk of injury. Drivers who do get behind the wheel while they are sedated or otherwise impaired and cause a car accident may be liable for their negligence. 

Source: New York Times, "To Judge Sleep Aids, U.S. looks at Drowsy Driving in the Morning," Katie Thomas, Aug. 13, 2013. 

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