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Prescription opiates may be linked to fatal crashes

The rise in the use of prescription opioids has concerned many in North Carolina, especially considering the number of people who have developed addictions to illegal drugs after taking prescription pain medications. The rate of overdoses across the country has gone up dramatically. Now, a study indicates that prescription opiates could also have an effect on highway safety, with at-fault drivers in two-car fatal crashes nearly twice as likely to have these drugs in their system.

Researchers used a national database of roadway fatalities to analyze data about fatal car accidents involving two vehicles. By studying 18,321 collisions that met their criteria, they found that the largest single cause of crashes was one driver's failure to stay in the correct lane. This occurred in 7,535 of the crashes. Substance use was a factor in a number of incidents. Of the at-fault drivers, 5,258 were found to have alcohol in their systems; the same was true of 1,815 of the drivers found to be not at fault. Similarly, 918 of the at-fault drivers tested positive for prescription opiates, in comparison to 549 of the drivers not at fault.

The researchers said that this could indicate that the American opioid epidemic is also affecting roadway safety. Other doctors warned that even though the tests only measured prescription opiates, the drivers could have been taking the medications illegally. Some said that people taking opiates for sudden injuries might not have a tolerance, but people who take them for chronic pain should not have impaired driving.

Many crashes are related to substance use, and others are caused by different types of negligent or dangerous driving. People who have been injured in a motor vehicle accident through no fault of their own might benefit from working with a personal injury lawyer to pursue compensation for their losses.

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