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How do opioids impair a person's ability to drive?

The dangers of opioid abuse have been well-documented and heavily reported. However, any use of opioids can present a serious danger for drivers taking them and for others sharing the road with them.

A recent study from Columbia University found that opioid use may in fact double the chances that a driver will cause a fatal crash. The doctor who headed the study, which was published in JAMA Network Open, said, "The impact of the opioid epidemic goes far beyond the body count from overdoses."

For the study, researchers used National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data for fatal two-car accidents between 1993 through 2016. In the 18,000-plus crashes studied, drivers with opioids in their system were more than twice as likely to cause a fatal crash than those who didn't have the drugs in their system.

The most common cause of fatal crashes for these drivers (41 percent) was going outside their lane. Next, at 25 percent, was failing to yield to those who had the right of way (e.g., running through a red light or stop sign). Speeding was the cause of 17 percent of the crashes.

Of course, all opioids (like many other kinds of prescription and even over-the-counter medications) can impair a person's ability to drive. Almost a third of the drivers in the study had hydrocodone in their system. Vicodin is a commonly prescribed drug with that ingredient. Over a quarter had morphine in their system. Over 18 percent tested positive for oxycodone. That's commonly prescribed under the name OxyContin.

If you've been injured in a crash caused by another driver, whether they were impaired by drugs and/or alcohol or not, you should explore your options for seeking compensation to cover medical bills, lost income and other financial losses. An experienced attorney can be a source of valuable advice and help.

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Marquardt & Belmonte, P.C.

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Wheaton, IL 60187

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