The opioid epidemic has been alarming and devastating to communities in this nation. The harm of prescription opioids has reached the country’s highways and played a growing role in fatal car accidents, according to researchers.
The number of fatal car accidents involving drivers impaired by opioids has tripled during the last 25 years. This finding was based upon an examination of over 18,000 car accidents involving at least two vehicles in this country from 2013 to 2016.
Fifty-five percent of these crashes involved driving errors by motorists who later tested positive for opioids who had difficulties remaining in their vehicle lane. Staying in the proper lane was a particularly dangerous error underlying all fatal accidents involving two vehicles. This was the most common cause of these fatal crashes and was involved in over 40 percent of these accidents.
Prescription opioids are potent medications used to treat pain. These medications can cause drowsiness, nausea, and impair important driving skills by reducing reaction time, alertness, concentration and attention. The study’s co-author compares the effect of opioids to drivers having a blood alcohol content of 0.05 percent which is slightly below the legal limit of 0.08 percent for drunk drivers.
The expense and difficulties associated with testing for opioids is further complicating enforcement. It is much more difficult to detect drug-impaired driving through field sobriety tests than detecting drunk driving. Many states, however, are expanding their drug recognition programs and training more police to become qualified as certified field evaluators of driving under the influence of opioids and other drugs.
Victims of a car accident caused by a drug-impaired driver may be entitled to compensation. An attorney can help obtain evidence and file a lawsuit.