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Study looks at role of opioids in fatal traffic accidents

| Feb 25, 2019 | Car Accidents |

The use of opioids may be a factor in some fatal two-car accidents in Kentucky and around the country. It is nearly two times more likely that drivers who cause these accidents will test positive for opioids compared to the other drivers in the accident according to a study that was published in JAMA Network Open. Among all fatal accidents, failure to stay in the correct lane was the most common cause.

The study examined data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System. This census tracks data on all traffic accidents that happen on public roads and in which at least one person is killed. The study looked at more than 18,000 accidents and found that 918 drivers who were at fault had positive tests for opioids compared to 549 drivers who were not at fault. In 2016, the proportion of drivers responsible for accidents with positive opioid tests had increased to 7.1 percent from 2 percent in 1993. Alcohol was an even bigger problem. More than 5,000 drivers at fault had alcohol in their system compared to 1,815 who were not at fault.

The study could not prove that the use of opioids was the cause for the crashes, but it may have been a factor. Experts say that people who use opioids regularly as part of a prescribed treatment can drive safely, but opioid abusers lack the tolerance.

When motor vehicle accidents happen, whether they are caused by a driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol or for other reasons, such as drowsy or distracted driving, they can lead to serious injuries even if there are no fatalities. Identifying the driver responsible for the accident is still important since that driver may be liable for an injured victim’s expenses. If the driver is uninsured or the insurance company will not pay enough compensation, a lawsuit may be the next step.

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