Within the early morning hours of Memorial Day in 2017, a police officer in Florida noticed a black Mercedes stopped on the street in the best lane with its brake lights on and the best blinker nonetheless blinking.
The officer then approached the driving force, who was asleep on the wheel and needed to be woke up.
The motive force stated he didn’t know the place he was and acknowledged that he “takes a number of prescriptions,” in response to the police officer’s affidavit. One of the prescription drugs found in his system was the sleep treatment zolpidem, which is usually referred to as Ambien.
The motive force was golf legend Tiger Woods.
Practically 4 years later, on Feb. 23, Woods was found off the road in a crashed automotive by a neighborhood resident who stated Woods was initially unconscious. A Los Angeles County Sheriff deputy on the scene requested Woods how the crash occurred.
“Driver stated he did not know and did not even remember driving,” in response to a deputy’s affidavit obtained by USA TODAY Sports activities. When Woods was requested once more later on the hospital, he repeated that he didn’t know and didn’t bear in mind driving.
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Regardless of these statements, Sheriff Alex Villanueva stated there was no proof of Woods being impaired. The sheriff’s division subsequently didn’t request blood proof to verify for drug use, prompting one other query surrounding the incident: Was this newest crash one other case of Woods driving on Ambien?
Consultants say the proof helps that suspicion, together with the way in which they are saying his car left the street as if he had been asleep on the wheel.
Then there’s his historical past. After one other single-car crash in Florida in 2009, Woods was discovered unconscious in his SUV and loud night breathing, in response to a witness assertion in a police report. Woods later acknowledged he used Ambien however didn’t immediately reply when requested at a information convention if Ambien performed a job in that crash.
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The specialists contacted by USA TODAY Sports activities cautioned that they couldn’t draw conclusions but and that there may very well be different explanations for what occurred, similar to different medicines or a medical emergency.
“However I do know the place you have a look at the prior conduct and suspect there could also be one thing else right here at play,” stated Charles Schack, a former New Hampshire state police trooper who’s now president of Crash Consultants, which analyzes site visitors accidents for legislation corporations and insurance coverage corporations.
Mark Steinberg, Woods’ agent, didn’t reply to a message Friday looking for remark.
The investigation into the crash on Feb. 23 remains to be energetic, although the precise trigger might by no means be recognized with no toxicology report on Woods.
“We will’t simply assume that any person’s historical past makes them responsible,” Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputy John Schloegl stated March 2 when requested by USA TODAY Sports activities why they weren’t pursuing a search warrant to acquire blood proof from Woods.
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Schloegl stated the sheriff’s division lacked the “possible trigger” vital to acquire approval from a choose for such a warrant. He famous that first responders observed Woods to be alert after he crashed his SUV.
However the truth that Woods was awake on the scene after the crash just isn’t in dispute. Whether or not he was acutely aware when his car drifted into the median and off the street is an open query.
Woods, 45, suffered multiple broken bones in his lower right leg, jeopardizing his golf profession. Woods was carrying a seatbelt, and “the vast majority of car airbags had deployed,” in response to a deputy’s affidavit sworn on March. 1. The affidavit didn’t point out any head accidents apart from “accidents/lacerations to his face” with blood on his face and chin. Airbags could cause facial accidents but in addition mix with seat belts to assist forestall head trauma.
With Ambien, the warning label says negative effects might embody “sleep-driving,” which is described as driving whereas not totally awake after which not remembering it.
“Peer-reviewed scientific analysis has proven that Ambien utilization amongst drivers has been related to studies of amnesia, regardless of remaining interactive with the surroundings,” stated Rami Cannabis, principal on the Nationwide Biomechanics Institute, which analyzes the reason for accidents. “So the present out there proof could also be in keeping with ‘sleep-driving.’”
Such sleep-driving is acquainted to former police detective Jonathan Cherney, who now works as an accident reconstruction knowledgeable in Southern California. He stated he has investigated a number of automotive crashes during which Ambien was concerned.
“I can let you know I don’t recall a case the place the driving force had an impartial recollection of what occurred instantly previous to the precise collision itself,” Cherney informed USA TODAY Sports activities. “Now that’s to not say that there are some drivers who might recollect what occurred, however I personally don’t recall any who have been in a position to present an in depth description of how a crash occurred.”
Cherney and different automotive accident reconstruction specialists informed USA TODAY Sports activities that the proof signifies Woods wasn’t paying consideration and had a “very delayed response” to the emergency at hand on the morning of Feb. 23 close to Rolling Hills Estates.
Cherney beforehand stated it was “like a basic case of falling asleep behind the wheel, as a result of the street curves and his car goes straight.” Cherney walked the scene after the crash and stated he noticed no proof of steering enter or braking on the street. The opposite impartial specialists cited on this story should not concerned within the sheriff’s investigation and are making observations based mostly on the out there proof.
To study extra about what occurred, the sheriff’s division recently executed a search warrant to obtain the “black box” data from Woods’ car, which might embody his pace, steering, braking and acceleration exercise shortly earlier than influence.
Woods was touring north on a curved downhill street when his car went straight into the median on the left as an alternative of staying with the street because it curved proper. His car, a Genesis GV80, then took out an indication within the median, traveled into opposing site visitors lanes, went off the street, hit a tree and rolled over. He traveled about 400 ft after hitting the median, in a comparatively straight line, with no obvious proof of steering enter or braking within the type of skid marks.
The proof didn’t appear to point that Woods was merely wanting down at his telephone momentarily or that he was merely fatigued.
“If a driver falls asleep and strikes a curb or in some way travels off the roadway, sometimes the jarring of the car is sufficient to waken the driving force, after which the driving force makes some form of response or overreaction,” stated Schack of Crash Consultants, which is a part of the Professional Institute, a community that gives knowledgeable witnesses in litigation. “There may be normally some proof. If there isn’t, and he continues touring 400 ft, you’d suppose some form of response would have taken place. … The shortage of response actually goes past what you’d anticipate for easy fatigue and also you begin wanting into different elements that will have performed a job on this.”
Schack famous that “even with anti-lock brakes, there can be some proof of braking and deceleration,” similar to faint skidding. Villanueva stated there have been no skid marks.
“I don’t wish to hold my hat solely on Ambien,” Schack stated. “Actually, Ambien might have been an element right here.”
Woods introduced in January that he had undergone the newest of a number of surgical procedures on his again.
In 2017, after Woods was discovered asleep on the wheel, he was arrested for driving below the affect. In distinction to the current crash, Woods’ speech on the time of his arrest was sluggish and slurred. He additionally failed sobriety exams.
A toxicology report later confirmed he had Ambien, Vicodin, Xanax, Dilaudid and THC in his system. He pleaded responsible to reckless driving, obtained one yr of probation and was required to finish DUI faculty. He even checked right into a clinic to get assist for his use of prescription ache and sleep medicines.
Woods made a press release relating to that case in 2017:
“Lately, I had been making an attempt alone to deal with my again ache and a sleep problem, together with insomnia, however I understand now it was a mistake to do that with out medical help,” he stated.
Within the 2009 incident outdoors his mansion in Florida, Woods crashed a Cadillac Escalade right into a tree and fireplace hydrant, giving him a minimize lip and sore neck. A neighbor on the scene then reported seeing Woods within the car unconscious and loud night breathing, in response to a police report.
The Florida Freeway Patrol decided then that there “was inadequate proof out there to problem a subpoena for added medical data that will exist on this case.”
Woods was cited for careless driving and fined $164.
Woods was requested about his Ambien use a number of months later when he appeared at a information convention for the Masters Match in April 2010.
Query: “Tiger, it has been reported that you simply took pharmaceuticals, Ambien and Vicodin. Are you able to communicate to if you began taking these, the way you want them for event golf, in case you did, and in case you ever turned hooked on both of them or obtained remedy?”
Woods: “I’ve taken them, sure. I’ve had some, as everybody is aware of, fairly fascinating knee conditions over time. I’ve had, what, 4 operations now on my left knee? And final yr, with my torn Achilles, it harm fairly a bit at occasions. And, sure, I did take that. And I took, more often than not I used to be on the Ambien was when my dad was sick.
“When my dad died, that was a troublesome time in my life. And, you realize, in order that’s when, sure, I used to be taking that, a few of these issues, to assist me sleep. And that is about it.”
He stated he had not obtained remedy for habit to these medicine.
In one other query, Woods was requested if Ambien performed a job within the 2009 crash.
“You have been described by the witnesses as mumbling, loud night breathing,” a reporter said.
“Effectively, the police investigated the accident and so they cited me,” Woods replied. “And it is a closed case.”
Contributing: Josh Peter