The nearly three-year-old case of a Coeur d’Alene woman who claims she was “sleep driving” when she crashed two cars and seriously injured another driver was finally scheduled to go to trial during the second week of November. The case, which includes two cars driven by the same person in two separate accidents, has been delayed repeatedly.
In January, 2014, Kara Powers is alleged to have been driving her SUV on the wrong side of the road when she struck another motorist’s vehicle. No one was injured in the crash. A witness at the scene stopped to help, and that’s when the situation shifted from a run-of-the-mill traffic incident to something unusual and potentially lethal.
After the Good Samaritan left her vehicle, which was another SUV, Powers hopped in and began driving away. There were three children inside, aged eight to thirteen. The children and their mother struggled with Powers, and all three were able to get out of the vehicle before Powers sped off. Soon after, Powers rear-ended another vehicle, causing it and the car she was driving to each roll several times. Powers and the other driver were both seriously injured in the crash.
As a result of these crashes, Powers faces charges of theft, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and leaving the scene of an accident. Powers’ defense for her actions that day is that she was not aware of any of what happened due to ongoing medical conditions and prescription drugs she was taking.
According to the police report of the incident, Powers told an officer on the scene that she did not remember anything about the crashes. Her attorney has said publicly that the cause was “an unconscious act, an episode of sleep driving,” brought on by a combination of pain, sleep deprivation, medication, and a lingering infection. Powers had been hospitalized with viral meningitis not long before the crashes. Prescription drugs were found in Powers’ car at the scene of the first crash.
“Sleep driving” has been used as a defense to explain other crashes in the past. In one of many similar cases in New Jersey last April, a nun claimed to have been sleep driving as a side effect of taking Ambien with wine when she crashed through a storefront window and then drove off. She claimed to have no recollection at all of driving, of the crash, or of any interaction with police officers during her arrest until she woke up in the local jail.
Only last month, a Michigan woman used the same defense to fight an operating while intoxicated charge. She did not cause any accidents or injuries and had taken Ambien shortly before that incident, which also ended without injury. In that case, the jury did not agree with the assessment that she had been under the influence and not in control of her actions. She was found guilty.
While it may seem farfetched, concerns oversleep driving are real and have been noted for more than a decade. Several drugs seem to have the potential for this to happen, including Ambien and its generic equivalent zolpidem, and that’s part of why the FDA reduced the recommended dosage in 2013.
If another driver has injured you or someone close to you, you need the kind of help Craig Swapp & Associates can offer to fully recover. We understand automobile accident law and the many considerations that come up in every case, including the unusual issue of sleep driving.
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