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Study: fatal crash risk doubles when drivers take opioids

Approximately 7% of all fatal car crashes in the U.S. involve opioids. Drivers in Brooklyn should know that opioids can make one dizzy and sedated, taking away their alertness and slowing their reactions. Most opioid medications have warnings on their labels saying that one should not take them before driving or operating heavy machinery, but these warnings are being ignored.

With the opioid epidemic continuing unabated as 214 million opioid prescriptions are being issued every year, researchers at Columbia University said they felt motivated to conduct a study on opioid use and its role in initiating fatal two-vehicle crashes. They analyzed 18,321 driver pairs who died in two-vehicle crashes and determined which drivers tested positive for opioids in their bloodstream after death. The study was published in JAMA Network Open.

It turns out that the risk for a fatal crash doubles with opioid use. Opioid and/or alcohol use was detected more in the crash initiators, or those who committed at least one driving error that led to the crash, than in the other drivers. Of those deceased drivers who were deemed at fault as well as found with opioids in their system, 54.7% crashed because of an inability to stay in their lane.

When a motor vehicle crash with an opioid-impaired driver does not lead to fatalities, victims may be able to file a personal injury claim against that driver's insurance company. The courts will calculate each driver's degree of fault, and this will determine who can recover damages and even, to a certain extent, how much they can recover. Having a lawyer negotiating on one's behalf may be another determining factor, so victims might consider seeing a professional for a case evaluation. In New York, an individual has three years from the date of the accident to file a claim.

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