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Prescription opioids may be linked to serious car crashes

Many New York residents worry about the impact of the opioid epidemic, from growing rates of addiction to the threat of deadly overdoses. One area where opiates may also have an impact on safety is on the roadway. A study examined fatal two-car accidents across the country and discovered that drivers held responsible for causing these crashes were almost twice as likely to have prescription opiate medications in their system at the time as the driver of the other vehicle.

In all of the fatal car crashes, the most common immediate cause was driving into the wrong lane or veering out of the correct lane of traffic. However, substances were also a factor in many of the 18,321 crashes studied by researchers, data taken from the national Fatality Analysis Reporting System. Alcohol was particularly prominent; 5,258 of the at-fault drivers in these accidents had been drinking, as had 1,815 of the drivers found not at fault. In the case of prescription opioids, 918 of the drivers that caused the crashes tested positive, in comparison to 549 of the not-at-fault drivers. Researchers noted that only 2 percent of at-fault drivers tested positive for opiates in 1993, compared to 7.1 percent in 2016.

The study did not measure the influence of illegal opiates like heroin and included only prescription drugs. However, some doctors noted that the results could still be more likely to involve people abusing prescription drugs rather than those taking medications as prescribed. They said that people who take opioids for chronic pain develop a tolerance that allows them to drive without impairment.

Substance abuse is only one of the types of dangerous or negligent driving that can lead to car accidents and the devastating injuries that may follow. People who have been injured in a crash caused by someone else can work with a personal injury attorney to seek compensation for their losses.

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