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Opioid abuse may be behind some fatal two-vehicle crashes

Missouri residents should know about a study published by JAMA Network Open that deals with the role of opioids in fatal two-vehicle crashes. While researchers do not say for certain if opioids are the cause of these crashes, they do show a clear connection between the two. Analyzing 1,467 opioid-using drivers in fatal two-car crashes, researchers found that 918 were the crash initiators.

For their data, researchers turned to the Fatality Analysis Reporting System run by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Out of 18,321 fatal two-car crashes, 7,533 were due to drivers who drifted out of their lane, making this driving error the most widespread cause of crashes. It is, incidentally, an error often made by opioid users.

Opioids impair users' cognition and induce drowsiness. Those who take opioids for acute injuries like burns and fractures are especially prone to suffer from these effects whereas long-term users can build up a tolerance to them. In fact, experts believe that chronic and stable opioid users do not pose a threat on the road.

Hydrocodone was detected in 32% of the 1,467 drivers, morphine in 27%, oxycodone in 19% and methadone in 14%. The study has its limitations, the principal one being that it did not distinguish between who used and who abused opioids.

Drivers who cause car accidents because they were impaired by drugs or alcohol will be to blame for the other side's injuries. Under Missouri's comparative negligence rule, victims recover damages in proportion to the degree of fault. To ensure a fair amount in damages, victims may want a lawyer by their side. If negotiations go smoothly, the other side may pay out for medical costs, pain and suffering, lost wages and more. If not, the lawyer may take the case to court.

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