The opioid crisis in Virginia and across the U.S. is putting drivers in danger. Opioids cause cognitive and psychomotor impairment, so those who take them and then head out on the road run the risk of becoming, among other things, drowsy. In 2016, 7.1% of all the drivers who caused a car crash were found with opioids in their system. This is a sharp increase from 1993, when the percentage was 2%.
Now, a study published in JAMA Network Open has explored a possible connection between opioid use and fatal two-car crashes. It turns out that crash initiators are twice as likely as drivers not at fault to test positive for opioids. Researchers analyzed 18,321 fatal two-car crashes and found 1,467 drivers who tested positive for opioids: Of these, 918 were crash initiators.
Thirty-two percent of the 1,467 drivers were discovered with hydrocodone in their system, 27% with morphine, 19% with oxycodone and 14% with methadone. It appears that the most common cause of fatal two-car crashes, regardless of opioid use, was the act of drifting out of lane.
The study has its limitations. It does not claim that opioid use causes car crashes, but critics say that researchers’ failure to distinguish between opioid use and abuse make the results of the study misleading.
When motor vehicle accidents are the result of opioid abuse, then there may be good grounds for victims to file a personal injury claim. According to Virginia’s pure contributory negligence law, though, the slightest degree of blame on the victim’s part will bar him or her from recovering damages. To see if their case will hold up, victims may want to consult with a lawyer. They may then have the lawyer speak on their behalf at the negotiation table or in the courtroom.