Gary Glenn Siddoway suffered from frequent seizure episodes and some of these episodes occurred while he was driving his car. According to the article, court records indicated that:

  • Siddoway started having seizures in 2009, resulting in at least three car accidents. During the seizures, he would lose motor control and appear to be unresponsive for a minute at a time. He told investigators these “episodes” occurred anywhere from monthly to every four to six months, even while on medication.
  • In February 2011, Siddoway suffered a seizure while driving his 2007 Ford F-150 in Coalville. He drove off the road and crashed into a fence. He left the scene before police arrived.
  • On April 22, 2011, he suffered a seizure that lasted about 10 minutes at a restaurant.
  • On May 4, 2011, Siddoway had a seizure while driving through Provo Canyon. When he regained consciousness, he was tangled up in cables in the median.
  • On May 22, 2011, Siddoway had a seizure while on medication and was incoherent for about 40 minutes.
  • On June 8, 2011, he told his doctor that the “smaller seizures (were) happening every several days.” He also told the doctor he was doing well on his medication and was “not interested in further evaluation.”
  • Siddoway had more seizures in July, August and October 2011.
  • On Nov. 4, 2011, he was told by his doctor not to drive until he had been seizure free for two to three months.
  • On Nov. 21, 2011, he submitted a form to the Utah Driver License Division claiming his last seizure was in July 2011, according to charging documents.
  • In January 2012, Siddoway had another seizure.
  • In October 2012, another seizure was experienced by Siddoway. He admitted to his physician that he “continues to experience ‘auras’ without seizures once a month.” His physician increased his medication.

Finally on February 3, 2013, Siddoway, while driving West on North Temple between 300 West and 400 West experienced a seizure. The truck he was driving continued to travel west on North Temple and hit a Nissan Versa that was stopped at a red light at 400 West. The driver of the Nissan Versa identified as Sarah Kunz sustained serious injuries. Kunz was brought to a hospital in critical condition where she died from her injuries the following day.

According to the report, Siddoway was traveling between 53 and 61 mph before crashing into the Nissan Versa.

As a result of the accident that took the life of Sarah Kunz, 29-year-old Siddoway is being charged in the 3rd District Court with manslaughter, a second-degree felony. He is charged for being reckless and causing the death of Sarah Kunz. He is scheduled to make an initial court appearance Thursday.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said that the fatal accident was preventable but Siddoway recklessly ignored his physical impairment caused by a medical condition. “If you have physical impairments of physical health issue that impairs your ability to drive, it is really incumbent on you to not go ahead and do that,” he said.

This was not the first case of impaired driving as a result of a medical condition. Just last March of this year, a teen driver with a medical condition crashed into a Provo home.

According to the article, the 17-year-old driver was heading to school when the accident happened. He plowed through an intersection and into the home at 450 E. University Parkway. The impact obliterated entire walls of the home, leaving the roof line compromised at one end, even blowing out windows in other parts of the house. The teenager was reported to be travelling at a speed high enough for the vehicle to fully enter the house and pass on top of two beds.

The article stated that the sport utility vehicle, which hit the home three feet above the foundation line, smashed through the children’s bedroom and a master bedroom and stopped just short of the backyard.

Fortunately the family that owns that home was not there at the time of the accident.

David Lee, the homeowner, said that his wife had just had a baby and needed assistance while he was at work. The family decided to stay at her parents in Lehi.

Lee is a teacher at a nearby school. He was with two of his sons in school when the accident happened. The renters who occupy the basement of the house were home at the time but were not harmed by the accident.

The area was evacuated because the natural gas line of the house was fractured by the vehicle. The report disclosed that nearby residents were allowed to return to their homes after about 30 minutes.

The driver of the vehicle was taken to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center with minor injuries. No citations were issued in the accident.

Driving impairments as a result of medical conditions is a serious concern. A driver with physical impairment as a result of health issues is held responsible for the outcome of his driving activities.

Utah Department of Administrative Services, Division of Administrative Rules defines driver’s responsibilities in R708-7-5.

(1) The 1979 Utah State Legislature has defined driver operating responsibilities in Section 53-3- 303, related to physical, mental or emotional impairments of drivers. Drivers are:

(a) responsible to refrain from driving if there is uncertainty caused from having a physical, mental or emotional impairment which may affect driving safety;
(b) expected to seek competent medical evaluation and advice about the significance of any impairment that relates to driving vehicles safely; and
(c) responsible for reporting a “physical, mental or emotional impairment which may affect driving safety” to the Driver License Division in a timely manner.

NHTSA published a technical report entitled “Medical Conditions and Driving: A Review of the Scientific Literature.” This report provides a comprehensive and integrative review of past and current research (to the year 2000) on the effects of medical conditions on driving performance. The report claims to provide a comprehensive and up-to-date review of the international research literature on the effects of medical and functional conditions on driving performance.

The report is divided into 15 sections (Introduction, Vision, Hearing, Cardiovascular Diseases, Cerebrovascular Diseases, Peripheral Vascular Diseases, Diseases of the Nervous System, Respiratory Diseases, Metabolic Diseases, Renal Diseases, Muscuoloskeletal Disabilities, Psychiatric Diseases, Drugs, The Aging Driver, and the Effects of Anesthesia and Surgery). Each section contains a brief overview of the condition/illness; prevalence information; a review of the medical, gerontological, and epidemiological literature relevant to the condition/illness.

The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) stated that the causes of motor vehicle crashes are varied. These include road design, vehicle design, and traffic volume. The Tignor report, (2000) as cited by the NHTSA, said that it has been estimated that as much as 90 percent of highway crashes are due to human error. Although data on the overall contribution of medical conditions to motor vehicle crashes are unavailable, it is reasonable to assume that medical conditions that affect functional capabilities (e.g., sensory, motor, or cognitive functioning) play a major role.

Moreover, the report said tha
t a number of medical conditions may result in functional impairments that negatively affect driving performance. The effects can result in functional impairments that are either acute or chronic.

Examples of acute effects are epileptic seizure or a hypoglycemic reaction. NHSTA describes the event as most often sporadic and unpredictable. According to NHSTA, the individual suffering the epileptic event is not competent to drive. On the other hand, chronic effects are, by definition, more enduring. In addition, unlike acute effects, chronic effects are relatively predictable and stable. In addition, the impact of chronic effects on an individual’s driving ability is measurable and its measurability is considered important.

The report claimed that driving ability may be compromised by the following medical conditions:

A. Visual Conditions/Diseases

  1. Low vision (vision ranging from 20/200 to 20/50)
  2. Cataracts
  3. Diabetic retinopathy
  4. Glaucoma
  5. Retinitis pigmentosa
  6. Monocular vision (especially right eye blindness)
  7. Macular degeneration
  8. Nystagmus
  9. Visual field defects

B. Cardiovascular Disease

  1. Cardiac arrhythmias if associated with cerebral ischemia (e.g., paroxysmal arrhythmias such as nonsustained paroxysmal ventricular tachycardia, paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia, paroxysmal atrial fibrillation/flutter; sinus node dysfunction)
  2. Artificial cardiac pacemakers if associated with cerebral ischemia
  3. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy if associated with cerebral ischemia
  4. Congestive heart failure if associated with cerebral ischemia
  5. Valvular heart disease if associated with cerebral ischemia

C. Cerebrovascular Disease

  1. Cerebrovascular accident (Stroke)
  2. Transient ischemic attacks

D. Diseases of the Nervous System

  1. Narcolepsy
  2. Sleep apnea

E. Respiratory Diseases

  1. Chronic obstructive lung disease if associated with respiratory failure resulting in cognitive impairment due to generalized hypoxia
  2. Respiratory failure

F. Metabolic Diseases

  1. Hypothyroidism if condition results in cognitive deficits
  2. Diabetes – the chronic effects of diabetes (e.g., diabetic retinopathy, cardiovascular disease, etc.) are listed separately

G. Renal Disease

  1. Chronic renal failure if associated with cognitive impairment

H. Dementia

  1. Progressive dementia (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease, Multi-infarct dementia)

I. Psychiatric Diseases

  1. Schizophrenia
  2. Personality disorder
  3. Chronic alcohol abuse

J. Medications

Chronic use of the following medications:

  1. Antidepressants (particularly the older tricyclics such as amitriptyline, imipramaine)
  2. Antihistamines (particularly the older antihistamines)
  3. Any drug that has prominent central nervous system effects (e.g., analgesics, some anti-hypertensives, sedatives, hypnotics, anxyiolytics, benzodiazepines, stimulants)

Clearly, medical conditions affect driving ability. When this happens, accidents can happen and the outcomes are hard to predict.  It can lead to property damage, injuries and even loss of life.

Photos copy right of John O’Neill