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Drivers who cause fatal accidents more likely to use opioids

As the opioid epidemic continues to affect communities in Michigan, evidence now suggests that increased opioid use within the population contributes to fatal car accidents. An analysis of 18,321 deadly two-car crashes by a research team revealed that the drivers identified as the crash initiators were nearly twice as likely to have prescription opioids in their systems than the other drivers within the data sample.

After narrowing down the drivers with opiate drugs in their systems, the researchers compared crash initiators to drivers whose actions did not cause accidents. Out of a group of 1,467 opioid-positive drivers, 918 of them were responsible for fatalities.

The influence of prescription opioid use on traffic safety has increased since 1993. At that time, only 2 percent of accidents arose from drivers taking prescription opioids. As of 2016, the rate had grown to 7.1 percent. People who must take painkillers for chronic pain do not appear to be the source of the problem. Driving simulation studies have indicated that patients using long-term opioid therapy have a tolerance to the drugs and can operate vehicles safely. Psychomotor and cognitive problems will impair people who have only recently begun taking painkillers for an acute condition or who are abusing the drugs.

Using strong medication that affects driving ability could impose financial responsibility on a person who causes a fatal accident. A surviving family member might choose to file a wrongful death lawsuit to collect compensation for lost household income, funeral expenses and medical care at the time of death. A case evaluation by an attorney could inform a person about the strength of a case. To pursue damages, a lawyer could support someone coping with grief and loss by gathering evidence about the accident, identifying insurance coverage and filing court paperwork.

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