Drivers in New Jersey and around the country who get behind the wheel after taking opioid medications are twice as likely to die in a crash, according to a study published recently in JAMA Network Open. A research team from Columbia University came to this conclusion after scrutinizing 18,321 accident reports from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The researchers discovered that drivers impaired by opioids most often died after drifting out of their traffic lanes. This will likely come as no surprise to police officers as alcohol and opioid impairment have many similarities. Both alcohol and opioid medications slow down reaction times and make concentrating far more difficult. The dangers faced by sober road users are likely to remain high in the years ahead due to the highly addictive properties of drugs like oxycodone and fentanyl and the huge number of opioid prescriptions written by doctors each year.
The researchers looked at car crash data gathered between 1993 and 2016. They noticed that opioid impairment became more of a threat to road users as the years passed. A study conducted in the 1990s found that about 1% of the motorists killed on the nation's roads each year had traces of opioids in their blood. That number has now risen to 7%, according to the Columbia University study.
Toxicology tests are not always performed on drivers who are involved in accidents. This means police reports do not always reveal whether or not opioid impairment played a role. When a client may have been injured by a driver under the influence of opioids, a personal injury attorney could seek to obtain medical records to establish impairment. This may be done by using subpoenas or court orders.