Entries in Car Accidents (5)


John Bryson: Did Seizures Lead to Car Accidents?

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Now that Secretary of Commerce John Bryson has taken medical leave after a seizure apparently caused him to hit two cars in California, medical experts are scratching their heads about how a seizure could have caused the chain of events that led to the accidents, Bryson's hospitalization and his eventual leave of absence.

"There are several different types of seizures," Dr. Robert Fisher, professor of neurology and the director of the Stanford Epilepsy Center in California, said.  "The one called complex partial allows a person to operate in a dream-like state over a period of seconds to minutes.  She or he could operate a car, but judgment, reflexes and thinking would be impaired for several minutes.  If [the accident] was due to a seizure, it is possible either for it to have been a cluster of a few seizures, or one seizure with a long aftermath of confusion, called 'postictal.'"

Bryson was found unconscious behind the wheel on Saturday and cited by police for leaving the scene of an accident after he rear-ended a Buick that had stopped and was waiting for a train to pass.

After the initial accident, Bryson got out of his car, spoke to the three males in the Buick, "then left the scene, hitting the same car as he left the scene," according to police.  Five minutes later Bryson allegedly hit a second vehicle containing a man and woman.  He was not charged and passed a blood-alcohol test Saturday night.

A statement from the Commerce Department released early Monday suggested that Bryson had some sort of seizure.  Such a claim raises many questions about what exactly happened to the secretary in Los Angeles Saturday night, and whether or not he was in the right state of mind to make the decision to continue driving.

Seizures are a neurological disorder that cause a temporary disturbance of behavior or consciousness.  They affect the non-dominant side of the brain -- the right side in most people.  During a seizure, experts say, the sufferer might be able to speak full sentences.

Dr. Fisher said that if a person is driving when he or she has an epileptic seizure, it can cause a driver to crash, and possibly drive off in a confused state.  It's entirely possible that the person having the seizure might have little to no recollection of the incident, he said.

Dr. Richard Kim, Director of the Hoag Epilepsy Center in Newport Beach, Calif., also says that Bryson could have had a complex partial seizure.  In such cases, he said, the person having the seizure appears to be staring or fumbling, and loses awareness of his or her surroundings. Kim adds that if the complex partial seizure had been continuing, Bryson would not have been able to get out of the car and speak to the three men in the first car he struck, so it is impossible that he was having a seizure the entire time.

As Dr. Fisher pointed out, a possible explanation for Bryson's behavior Saturday night is what is called a "postictal state," where the sufferer continues to have a disturbance after the seizure stops.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pot Smoking Raises Risk of Fatal Car Crashes

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Driving after smoking pot can double a person’s risk of being in a serious or fatal car crash, according to a review of studies published Thursday in the British Medical Journal.

While it may seem like the review is just reinforcing advice to put it in park when under the influence, it’s actually the first review of studies to look at the risk of crashing under the influence of marijuana independent of any other substances such as alcohol, according to the authors.

The results of the review “provide a more definitive statement on the direction that efforts in public policy and intervention should take in addressing road safety,” the researchers wrote.

The findings did not change the policy of NORML, an organization advocating the legalization of marijuana.

“Just like alcohol, there’s a difference between use and abuse,” said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML.

The organization condemns driving under the influence, he said.  

Researchers in Canada reviewed nine studies that totaled nearly 50,000 people and found those who smoked within three hours before driving were twice as likely to get into a serious car accident. The risk was even higher among drivers aged 35 or younger.

Marijuana plays less of a role in car crashes than alcohol, but smoking pot, even in low doses, can put drivers at risk, researchers found. The studies didn’t clarify what role marijuana plays in minor car crashes.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


The Most Dangerous Time for Teen Drivers

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Experience counts, especially behind the wheel, and a new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety finds teens are much more likely to get into an accident during the first month of driving.

Foundation researchers looked at teen accident data from North Carolina from 2001 through 2008 and discovered that in their first month of unsupervised driving, teens were 50 percent more likely to crash than they were after a year on the road.  They were nearly twice as likely to get into an accident during those first 30 days than they were after two years behind the wheel.

More than half of those early crashes -- 57 percent of them -- were due to three common mistakes: speeding, not paying attention and failing to yield to another vehicle.

There were some maneuvers that these newest drivers found challenging as well, such as left-hand turns.  During their first few months of driving, crashes involving left-hand turns were common.  But the study found teens quickly learned how to manage the turns, and those crash rates dropped off quickly as time went on.

Researchers installed video cameras in the cars of 38 new teen drivers and found that once teens were allowed to drive on their own, parents virtually vanished from the cars.  Parents or adults were present in only 3 percent of the videos.

The videos also revealed teens talking and texting while driving and mistakenly running red lights.

The Foundation urges parents to continue to practice with teens, even after they have their license, to make sure they can drive safely in all kinds of conditions.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Texting Can Double a Driver's Reaction Time, Study Finds

Hemera/Thinkstock(COLLEGE STATION, Texas) -- We've all been told texting while driving is very dangerous, but a new study released Wednesday finds it's even worse than you might think.

The Texas Transportation Institute found that texting behind the wheel can more than double a driver's reaction time, whether sending or receiving a text message.  Drivers who didnt't text were found to react between one and two seconds, while drivers who did took at least three to four seconds.

Most texting-related accidents in the U.S. involve teenagers who, the institute says, die in traffic accidents by numbers that would fill a commercial airliner every week for a year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Drug Deaths Exceed Traffic Deaths

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Drugs now kill more people than motor vehicle accidents in the U.S. -- a monumental shift that reflects gains in road safety amid a troubling rise in prescription drug abuse.

Drug overdoses and brain damage linked to long-term drug abuse killed an estimated 37,485 people in 2009, the latest year for which preliminary data are available, surpassing the toll of traffic accidents by 1,201.  And the number is likely to rise as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention prepares to release its official statistics in December.

Dr. Leonard Paulozzi, medical epidemiologist at the CDC's division of unintentional injury prevention, said prescription drugs were driving up the death toll.

"There has been a dramatic increase in use of prescription drugs as physicians have become more liberal in prescribing them," said Paulozzi, adding that the bulk of drug-related deaths stems from accidental opioid painkiller overdoses.  "And with the decrease in the motor vehicle crash mortality rate, drug-induced deaths have now passed motor vehicle crash deaths."

This is first time that drugs have caused more deaths than motor vehicle accidents since the government started tracking drug-related deaths in 1979. 

Illegal drug use is on the rise, according to a recent report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.  In 2010, almost 9 percent of Americans 12 or older used illegal drugs such as marijuana.  Prescription drug abuse, on the other hand, has stayed relatively steady, according to Dr. Peter Delany, director of Samsha's Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality.  But it is landing more people in emergency rooms or rehab clinics.

"The number of people starting to have significant consequences, or at least recognizing they need help, is on the rise," said Delany.  "A lot of people think that because you need a prescription, it must be a pretty safe drug.  But it's addictive.  Even if you take them the way they're prescribed.  You can build up a tolerance pretty quickly."

The tendency to wrongly assume prescription drugs are safe, Delany said, leads people to take too many pills or mix them with other drugs or alcohol -- both possibly fatal errors.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio