Spike in Opioid-Related Car AccidentsMarch 14, 2019
Researchers from the Center for Injury Epidemiology at Columbia University Medical Center have discovered yet another devastating effect that the ongoing opioid epidemic is having on people across the country. In addition to the tragic cases of addiction, overdoses, and fatalities associated with opioid painkillers, a recent study shows that opioids have caused a significant increase in fatal car accidents.
In fact, the percentage of fatal crashes involving a driver who was under the influence of opioid painkillers has tripled in the past 25 years.
According to a co-author of the study, the opioid epidemic is having a dangerous ripple effect, not only on the people taking these potent drugs, but on the general population as well. Opioids are having a particularly dangerous impact on highway safety because of the effect opioids have on a driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.
Side Effects and Impairments from Opioid Pain Killers
Pain medications like Oxycontin are known to cause side effects like drowsiness and nausea. They can also cause impaired cognitive functions and psychomotor skills, which can result in slower reaction times and reduced alertness and concentration.
Like driving under the influence of alcohol, these impairments can have devastating consequences when it comes to motor vehicle accidents. The researchers found that prescription opioids cause impairments that are similar to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.05 percent, which is over the legal limit of 0.08 percent.
Due to the potency of opioids, it is never a good idea to get behind the wheel when taking these prescription painkillers, as they can double the risk of a fatal two-car accident.
Researchers reviewed data from over 18,000 fatal two-car accidents that occurred across the country between 1993 and 2016. Over half of the drivers who were taking opioids at the time of the accident failed to stay in their own lane, which can be very dangerous, particularly during heavy traffic or on high-speed highways. In fact, the researchers found that this was a major factor in over 40 percent of the fatal two-car accidents.
Driving while under the influence of alcohol is still a major cause of car accidents in this country. In fact, the researchers found that drunk driving is six times more common than driving while under the influence of prescription opioids. However, opioids alone doubled the risk of a fatal two-car accident, regardless of whether any of the drivers involved were also under the influence of alcohol.
Unfortunately, it is much more difficult, and expensive, to test drivers for prescription opioids. Drug recognition expert programs train police officers to become certified field evaluators, making them better able to determine whether a motorist is high on an opioid medication. These, and other proactive programs, can help address this issue and prevent future opioid-related fatalities.
Baltimore Car Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Victims of Opioid-Related Car Accidents
If you or a loved one have been seriously injured in a car accident involving another driver who was under the influence of a prescription opioid, contact the Baltimore car accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton as soon as possible. We will hold the negligent party responsible for their actions and seek the maximum financial compensation for your injuries. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.
Our offices are located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Towson, allowing us to represent car accident victims in Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Southern Maryland, and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.