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Study finds many fatal two-car crash initiators used opioids

Opioid users in Louisiana know that such drugs can cause psychomotor and cognitive impairment in those who have yet to develop a tolerance. Such impairment can affect one's driving, which is why not a few drivers who cause crashes test positive for opioids. In 1993, 2% of all crash initiators tested positive for them, but in 2016, the percentage rose to 7.1%.

Researchers at Columbia University analyzed thousands of fatal two-car crashes in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System and looked at those drivers who tested positive for opioids. There were 1,467 in all. Of these 918 were deemed to be the crash initiators: nearly twice as many as those who were not. The most commonly used opioids were hydrocodone (32% of drivers), morphine (27%), oxycodone (19%) and methadone (14%).

These and other results of the study were published in JAMA Network Open. For instance, researchers noted that drifting out of a lane was the error that led most frequently to fatal two-car crashes. This was regardless of who, if anyone, was taking opioids.

The study has been criticized for not making it clear whether opioids were indeed the cause of car crashes. All it does is associate the two. Others say the study is misleading because it does not separate opioid use from abuse.

When motor vehicle accidents are the result of opioid abuse, victims may be able to file a personal injury claim against the responsible driver's auto insurance company. Even if they were partially to blame, they may still recover damages, though the amount will be lowered accordingly. Victims may ask a lawyer to assess their case before anything else. If retained, the lawyer may handle all negotiations, taking the case to court if a fair settlement cannot be achieved.

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