Prescription opioid use is on the rise in the United States. The same is true of the increase of opioid-related traffic fatalities. Researchers from Columbia University recently released a study on the rise of fatal car accidents linked to opioid use in recent years. In 2015, close to 100 million Americans took prescription opioids in some form. Today, more drivers who suffer fatal injuries in car accidents test positive for narcotics than ever before.
Data Used in the Columbia University Study
In the study, data from six states were used: California, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Illinois, Rhode Island, and West Virginia. Although law enforcement in every state tests traffic fatality victims for the presence of drugs, testing methods are not standardized from state to state. Additionally, the drug testing methods employed within an individual state can change over the years. These were not considered when examining the data for the study. The researchers examined the past two decades of data about traffic fatality victims who passed within one hour of their accidents.
Researchers found that of the 37,000 individuals who fit this category, three percent had tested positive for narcotics. Between the years of 1995 and 1999, one percent of male victims tested positive for narcotics. This figure increased to five percent for victims who were fatally injured in car accidents between 2010 and 2015. For women, the percentage for these two periods went from just over one percent to seven percent. The study did not examine whether the narcotics caused these drivers’ accidents, only whether the drugs were present in their systems at their time of death.
How Opioid Use Impairs Drivers
Opioids make it impossible to drive safely. Like alcohol, opioids are known to impair drivers in the following ways:
- Slowed reaction time
- Increased drowsiness
- Impaired motor skills
- Impaired judgment
Unlike alcohol, it is not currently possible for law enforcement to test drivers for narcotic impairment. This does not mean that nothing can be done to reduce the number of prescription opioid-related traffic fatalities. Doctors and pharmacists who prescribe medications like codeine, OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin should take greater care to warn patients of the risks associated with these medications. It is also important for patients to heed these warnings and choose not to drive while using medications that include opiates. Education can reduce the number of accidents related to prescription narcotic use also.
Cherry Hill Car Accident Lawyers at DiTomaso Law Represent Car Accident Victims Seeking Compensation for their Damages
If you have been injured in a car accident caused by another driver’s negligence, whether it was the driver’s use of alcohol, drugs, their aggression, or their choice to drive while distracted, you could be entitled to recover monetary compensation for your damages through a personal injury claim. To learn more, fill out our online form or call 856-414-0010 to schedule your initial consultation with a Cherry Hill car accident lawyer at DiTomaso Law. Our offices are located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and Philadelphia and we work with clients from South Jersey and Pennsylvania.