A study, the results of which have been published in JAMA Network Open, has found that opioid use raises the risk for fatal motor vehicle crashes. New Jersey residents should know that prior to the opioid epidemic that began in the 1990s, opioids were responsible for about 1% of driver deaths in the US whereas recent years have seen the statistic rise to 7%.
Opioids are known to make drivers dizzy or sedate. With that comes a lack of alertness and slower reaction times. Opioids usually come with labels that warn users not to drive or use heavy machinery while taking the medication. CDC data shows that 214 million opioid prescriptions are issued every year in the US, though the rate at which opioids are being prescribed has gone down from 72.4% to 66.5% between 2006 and 2016.
For their study, researchers analyzed fatal crashes in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System where drivers were at fault, and toxicology reports indicated the presence of opioids in the driver’s bloodstream. It turns out that nearly 55% of deceased drivers who had opioids in their bloodstream crashed because they could not stay in their lane. Not all the drivers who tested positive for opioids were proven to be impaired, though.
Those who are injured in an auto accident at the hands of a drug- or alcohol-impaired driver may be able to recover damages. Since New Jersey is a no-fault state, victims must file a claim with their own insurance company first before considering a third-party claim. There are limits to who can file such a claim, so victims may want a lawyer to evaluate their case. Once the proof of negligence has been gathered, an attorney may advocate for victims during negotiations or at court.