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How opioids may be behind many fatal two-car crashes

Residents of New York who use opioids for chronic pain or acute injuries probably know what the effects can be like. For people who are not used to the effects, it is common to experience psychomotor and cognitive impairment. Opioids can cause drowsiness and impair judgment. It's not surprising, then, that opioid use and driving do not go together.

However, a study published recently in JAMA Network Open has found that in fatal two-car crashes, the drivers who initiated them were twice as likely to test positive for opioids as the other driver. Researchers analyzed 18,321 fatal two-car crashes recorded in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System and focused on those 1,467 drivers who were found with opioids in their system. While 549 of them were not at fault for the crashes in which they were involved, the remaining 918 were.

The most commonly detected opioids were hydrocodone (32%), morphine (27%) and oxycodone (19%). It was not clear, though, how many were long-time users, so researchers could not say whether opioids directly factored in these crashes.

As a side note, at-fault drivers were much more inclined to have alcohol in their system than the other driver in a crash (5,258 versus 1,815). With fewer opioid prescriptions being written, some experts believe the number of opioid-related crashes will eventually decline.

If it's clear that opioids were a factor in motor vehicle crashes, then there may be grounds for crash victims to file a claim. Since New York is a no-fault state, only individuals who sustain a serious injury or disability can file a third-party insurance claim. For this reason, victims may want a lawyer to evaluate their case. An attorney may strengthen it with evidence gathered by drug experts and crash investigators.

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