Narcolepsy sufferer crashed car into tree, killing his fiancee, after nodding off at wheel

by adamt95 on October 10, 2014 - 12:01pm

Australian native, Alan Leslie Styman was diagnosed with narcolepsy in 2004. For those who aren't aware, narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder, which gives you an "excessive" urge to sleep, at what can be charecterized as "innapropriate" times. In 2010, due to his narcolepsy, Styman crashed his car into a tree, killing his finacee. Just prior to the accident, Styman experienced a "microsleep", which is a brief sleep period. He tried to apply the breaks, but it was too late. If you thought this wasn't already bad enough, Styman had been told by a specialist NOT to drive. Styman recently pleaded guilty to dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, which caused the death of his fiancee. However, Styman was given a license to drive from doctors, who were not fully aware of his condition. Prior to the loss of fiancee, Styman had been suffering from severe depression. Due to the severe impact the accident had on Styman and his fiancee's family, a deterrent prison sentence was imposed. Styman was given a prison sentence of four years for his crime and was released after one. Styman was then disqualified from diving indefinitely.  

In my opinion, this appears to be a pretty open and shut case. If you are suffering from a condition which might make you fall asleep at any given time, I think it might be a good idea to stay off the roads. Regardless if he was given a special license by doctors to drive, he should have considered the betterment of those around him first. Although I do sympathize with him for the loss of his fiancee, he had no busniess driving with her under ANY circumstance. She must have been aware to some extent of his condition, which brings up the question, why would she get in a car with him in the first place? She put her life in his hands and paid the consequence of her life. I don't happen to agree with the prison term of 4 years that he recieved. For me, this case can be compared to that of a drunk driver hitting a pedestrian. If you are under the influence of alcohol, you should not be driving. Just as if you are vulnerable to fall asleep at the wheel at any given time. Both situations involve making decisions, which aren't all that difficult.



There was a case almost identical to this one in Rochester, N.Y. He didn't have narcolepsy, but he had epilepsy, was told not to drive, and actually had his license taken away because his seizures happened so frequently. He had somewhere to go and he had no one to take him and ended up getting behind the wheel of a car. He drove through downtown Rochester, ended up having an episode behind the wheel, and hit and killed someone on the corner of Main Street. He was charged and convicted with vehicular manslaughter. The reasoning for the conviction was because he knew he wasn't supposed to be driving and because of his actions he caused someone else’s death.

5. This is a very tragic story. My thoughts go out to these families for having to deal with this tragedy. I thought you brought up some very valid points in your post. Because I am a criminal justice major, cases such as these tend to catch my eye to see what the court rules. I do wonder if this case was tried in Australia or the United States because then each court would be different. In my family I was brought up thinking in black and white with certain situations. With this situation, I do feel that Styman got a good sentence for what he has done and I am glad he had his license taken away forever. Someone that has a health issue that can cause a person to not drive responsible behind the wheel should not have his or her license in the first place. They should not be so selfish to not think they will not harm anyone else while they are behind the wheel. You mentioned that you would compare this case with that of a drunk driving accident and I completely agree. In a town near me a boy was driving who was intoxicated. He ended up hitting a tree because of an over correction of the wheel. This boy had his 18-year-old girlfriend in the front seat with him. During the crash, he killed her. He had no scratches on him at all after the accident. Now, in this case, he did not go to jail or prison and only had his license taken away for a short period of time. This to me was unfair, but that is how the system works sometimes. It is very unfortunate of the lives that are lost due to others not thinking before they get behind the wheel of a moving vehicle.

Sadly, this case seems all too familiar as I feel as though there are many instances which terrible things like this happen. What I can't agree with is why anyone would give him a license even if it is just conditionally to drive to doctors appointments. I can understand that his doctor appointments are important and necessary, how are they certain that he will not have these moments of sleep while driving to those appointments. How is it okay for him to drive to the doctors but not to the store? What makes the path he drives different? I think that his case should have been treated much more seriously, I understand he cannot control these episodes he has however he was aware of them and still chose to drive. I question why his fiancee would get in the car knowingly, that would be similar to her getting in the car with an intoxicated person. I agree that this case should have been treated as harshly as someone who had been drunk driving.

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