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How Opioids Are Shaping the World of Car Accidents


Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a massive problem on American roadways. People who engage in this behavior are knowingly putting themselves and others out on the road in danger. It is a reckless and negligent practice that no one should engage in, and yet, despite decades upon decades of ad campaigns and public service announcements, there are still plenty of people that drive drunk or under the influence of drugs.

Surprisingly, even in the middle of a national opioid epidemic, it isn’t too often that you hear about opioids being brought up in relation to car accidents. That is, until today. A study performed by Columbia researchers looked at car accidents and how drivers who tested positive for opioids have increased over time.

The data for this study was collected from states over the decades that test for drug use in car accidents. A fatality must have occurred within one hour of the crash. What the study found is that from 1995 to 1999, the number of men that died in accidents that tested positive for opioids hovered just below 1 percent. For women, the rate was about the same: roughly 1 percent.

But when you look at these metrics during the 2010 to 2015 time frame, the numbers dramatically jump. For men, 5 percent tested positive for opioids in fatal accidents. For women, 7 percent tested positive for opioids in fatal accidents.

Source: The Drive, “Prescription Opioid-Related Fatal Car Crashes Spike in U.S., Study Says,” Kyle Cheromcha, July 31, 2017