Kerry Kennedy DUI Arrest Likely Caused by Sleep Driving -- Just Like Cousin Patrick's Capitol Hill Crash
Kerry Kennedys DUI arrest in a Westchester County, NY highway crash yesterday morning was likely caused by Ambien-induced sleep driving — the same drug responsible for former U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson’s crashes in L.A. last month leading to his cabinet resignation. The details of Kennedy’s crash have all the hallmarks of sleep driving — the bizarre but disclosed side effect which causes users of Ambien to get out of bed and drive their cars while still asleep with no memory of their actions. It occurred in the early morning, likely just hours after she took the drug. She continued driving even though she had a flat tire. She was disoriented. And just like in John Bryson’s case, after Kennedy stopped the car at the bottom of an exit ramp, officers found her slumped behind the wheel.While Kennedy reportedly told officers on the scene she’d taken Ambien, spokesman Ken Sunshine later denied she had drugs or alcohol in her system. Sunshine has not yet commented on whether Kennedy may have been sleep driving.
Ironically, it was her cousin, former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, that first brought public attention to the problem of Ambien-induced sleep driving in 2006 when he crashed his Mustang convertible into a capitol hill barrier at 2 am telling officers he was late for a vote. Kennedy had gotten out of bed after taking Ambien and an anti-nausea medication. Around the time of Patrick Kennedy’s incident came a class action agains the drug maker complaining of another curious side effect: sleep eating. Plaintiff’s lawyer Susan Lask cited examples of clients gobbling strange things after partially waking up in the middle of the night — raw eggs, including the shells, and buttered cigarettes.
In the wake of the class action, and more than a dozen officially reported incidents of sleep driving, the FDA required the drug makers to revise the drug’s label. It now warns the 39 million people who take Ambien that the drug can cause them to eat, have sex or drive without knowing it and with no memory of their conduct. But it makes no mention of the legal ramifications that users like Kerry Kennedy face if they’re among the unlucky ones to suffer this purportedly rare side effect. (Ambien, made by French drug maker Sanofi, had peak annual revenues of $2.2 billion in 2006, the year before it went, according to IMS Health.)