Drivers who use opioids double their crash risks

As Ohio residents know, there is an opioid epidemic in the U.S. Researchers estimate that 214 million opioid prescriptions are issued each year. Though most opioid medications come with a warning not to drive or operate heavy machinery when using them, many drivers are ignoring this. About 7% of all fatal auto accidents are now caused by opioid use. This is a 6% rise from what it was prior to the start of the epidemic in the 1990s.

A new study published in JAMA Network Open finds that drivers impaired by opioids double their risk for being in a fatal crash. To arrive at the conclusion, researchers analyzed 18,321 driver pairs who passed away in two-vehicle accidents that occurred 1993 and 2016. The data was gathered from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System.

Of all the deceased drivers who were found to have opioids in their system at the time of the crash, 54.7% crashed because they could not stay in their lane. This makes sense because opioids are known to make users dizzy. The medications can blunt one's alertness and slow down reactions.

The study does have limitations as researchers admitted. Specifically, FARS does not record dosage amounts for opioids, so motorists who tested positive for the drug may not have necessarily been impaired.

Drug- or alcohol-impaired drivers will be held responsible for any motor vehicle accidents they cause. Victims may wish to see legal counsel about the possibility of being reimbursed for losses. These losses could be medical expenses, lost wages, a diminished capacity to earn a living, pain and suffering and more. In Ohio, even those who are partially responsible may recover damages. A lawyer could take on all negotiations with the at-fault parties.

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