Study finds link between opioid use and fatal car crashes

Drivers abusing opioid prescription or street drugs may be causing many of the fatal two-vehicle accidents in New Jersey. A study of national fatal crash data found that drivers who tested positively for opioids caused 7.1 percent of deadly wrecks in 2016. This represented a 5.1 percent increase since 1993.

The JAMA Network Open published the results of the study, which counted how many drivers in two-car accidents had opioids in their systems. The researchers then determined that 918 out of 1,467 opioid-positive drivers had initiated fatal crashes. Among all of the drivers who tested positive for opioids, 32 percent had hydrocodone in their systems. Slightly fewer drivers, 27 percent, showed morphine use, and another 19 percent had consumed oxycodone. The remainder of people tested positively for methadone or other opioid prescriptions.

An anesthesiology professor who commented on the study cautioned people not to interpret the results negatively for chronic pain patients who must take opioid prescriptions. Studies have shown that long-term pain patients can usually operate vehicles safely. People unaccustomed to the drugs or active drug abusers, however, could be impaired behind the wheel.

Any evidence of impairment or other negligence after a fatal car accident could deepen the grief of a family that survives the loss of a loved one. Reckless actions or defective auto parts could justify a wrongful death lawsuit. An attorney could research which parties might be held responsible for damages like hospital bills, funeral expenses and loss of companionship. During a legal consultation, the plaintiff could evaluate options for negotiating a settlement or taking a case to a jury. An attorney could manage communications, court filings and evidence to advance a survivor’s rights and financial needs.

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