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Study shows how car crashes can be related to opioid use

The opioid crisis has come to impact the nation's roadways. From 1993 to 2016, the number of drivers who were deemed at fault for a crash and found with opioids in their system went from 2% to 7.1%. Residents of Pennsylvania should know that in fatal two-car accidents, the responsible driver is two times likelier to test positive for opioids than the other driver.

These statistics are based on a recent JAMA Network Open study. Analyzing data from 18,321 fatal two-car crashes that were recorded in the NHTSA's Fatality Analysis Reporting System, researchers found that 1,467 drivers in all tested positive for opioids. Of these individuals, 918 were at fault for a crash while 549 were not.

Of the errors that led to a fatal crash, the most common for all drivers was drifting out of their lane as 7,535 drivers were guilty of the behavior. Incidentally, opioid use can cause drivers to do this out of drowsiness. However, the study is not saying opioid use caused any of the car accidents it analyzed.

Experts note that opioid use does lead to psychomotor and cognitive impairment, but those who take opioids over the long term develop a tolerance for them. Thus, people who use opioids to treat chronic injuries are less risky than those treating acute injuries.

All drivers are expected to maintain control of their vehicles, and opioids can interfere with this by impairing their judgment and reactions. When opioids are involved in motor vehicle crashes, the innocent victims may be able to file a claim and be reimbursed for their medical bills, lost wages and other losses. Auto insurance companies can be aggressive in denying payment, though, so victims may want an attorney to work with them, speaking on their behalf at the negotiation table.

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