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Study associates opioids with some fatal two-car crashes

The opioid epidemic has had its impact on car crash numbers in Ohio and across the U.S. Whereas 2% of crash initiators in 1993 tested positive for opioids, that percentage went up to 7.1% in 2016. Now, a study published in JAMA Network Open has associated opioid use with a fair number of fatal two-car collisions.

Researchers analyzed 18,321 such collisions and found that a total of 1,467 drivers were found with opioids in their system at the time of the crash they were in. Of these, 918 drivers were crash initiators: that is, nearly twice as many as those drivers who tested positive for opioids but did not cause the crash. Hydrocodone and morphine were the most widespread opioids, being found in 32% and 27% of these drivers, respectively.

The study found that the most common driver error behind fatal two-car crashes was the act of veering out of a lane. It factored in 7,535 crashes. This was regardless of whether drivers were taking opioids or not, but incidentally, opioid use does cause drowsiness, which can lead to drivers drifting out of their lane.

Critics say the study is misleading because there is no distinction made between opioid use and abuse. Long-term opioid users often develop a tolerance for the drug and may drive without impairment.

Not every opioid user can be deemed a negligent driver, but it might affect one's chances of recovering damages if one has been injured in an auto accident. Before moving forward with a claim, victims of a crash may do well to consult with a personal injury lawyer. A lawyer may combine the efforts of investigators, drug experts and other third parties in building up a case and handling all negotiations.

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