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Study links use of prescription opioids to car accidents

The widespread use of prescription opioids has been called an epidemic, and people in New Jersey could be at increased risk when drivers abuse these drugs. A study that looked at data about fatal two-car accidents found a relationship between opioid use and motor vehicle crashes. Researchers identified which drivers were considered responsible for causing accidents and if they had prescription opioids in their bodies. Among people labeled crash initiators, they had almost twice the likelihood of testing positive for opioids compared to drivers who were not responsible for crashes.

According to the study, opioids were associated with about 2 percent of fatal two-car wrecks in 1993. By 2016, this number had grown to 7.1 percent. The data sample for the study included 1,467 drivers who showed the presence of opioids in their systems. Hydrocodone was the most prevalent, showing up in 32 percent of these drivers. Morphine appeared in the systems of 27 percent of the positive-tested drivers, and oxycodone had been used by 19 percent.

Although prescription drugs have emerged as a problem for traffic safety, alcohol remains a significant factor in traffic fatalities. When the researchers looked at a sample of deadly accidents that involved alcohol, 5,258 crash initiators had consumed alcohol compared to 1,815 alcohol-positive drivers who did not cause their accidents.

Impairment from drugs or alcohol could justify claims of negligence against a driver. Evidence of negligence could help an accident victim collect damages from the responsible party. Because dealing with an insurance company or court might overwhelm a person coping with serious injuries, an attorney could manage the details. A lawyer's investigation might uncover evidence of impairment and improve the plaintiff's chances of receiving compensation for medical bills and lost income.

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