Drivers in West Virginia probably don’t need to be told about the danger that opioid use can pose on the road. Opioids impair one’s movements and cognition, and this can lead to drowsy and inattentive driving. Unfortunately, more drivers who cause crashes are being found with opioids in their system. In 2016, the percentage of such drivers was 7.1% whereas in 1993, it was only 2%.
A study published in JAMA Network Open found some additional data that has proven to be interesting. Researchers linked opioid use to hundreds of fatal two-car crashes, but they did not say explicitly that opioid use caused these crashes. Still, after analyzing thousands of fatal two-car crashes and focusing on 1,467 drivers involved who tested positive for opioids, researchers discovered that 918 were crash initiators. The remaining 549 were not to blame for the crash they were in.
In all, researchers analyzed 18,321 fatal two-vehicle collisions. In 7,535 cases, drivers caused the crash by veering out of their lane. Though opioids were not involved in most of these, opioid users are known to frequently drift out of their lane.
Some have called the study misleading because it does not separate opioid users from abusers. Critics point out that many long-term opioid users can drive without impairment.
Regardless of whether drivers develop a tolerance to the effects of opioids, they may still be accused of negligent driving if they are found after a crash to have opioids in their system. As for the victims, they may want to consult with an attorney before filing a claim against the responsible driver’s insurance company. First, there is the step of proving the defendant’s negligence. After that, the attorney may be able to negotiate for a fair amount in damages.