Study examines role of opioids in fatal car accidents

New York motorists who cause fatal collisions might be more likely than the other driver to be under the influence of opioids at the time of the crash. A study examined data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System on 18,321 deadly two-car motor vehicle accidents and found drivers who caused accidents were almost two times more likely to have opioids in their system than drivers who did not. Among all fatal accidents in the study, more than 7,500 were the result of failure to remain in the lane.

The study was published in February in JAMA Network Open. Hydrocodone was the drug most commonly found in people's system followed by morphine, oxycodone, and methadone.

While the use of opioids could not be pinpointed as the cause of the accidents, it may have been a factor. However, experts did point out that it tends to be the abuse of opioids rather than merely their use that impairs drivers. Studies have shown that when people are regularly taking opioids as instructed, they build up a tolerance that makes it safe to drive. Those who are abusing them generally do not have this tolerance.

When motor vehicle accidents occur, even when they are not fatal, they could lead to serious injuries. Victims may have a long period of rehabilitation before they can return to work or may be unable to work at all. The party who caused the accident may be responsible for covering such costs as the injured person's medical expenses and lost wages. Injured people may want to contact an attorney with assistance in filing the claim. Insurance companies may not offer enough compensation to cover the person's expenses, or they might dispute how the accident happened or who was at fault.

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