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Are narcotics causing more traffic accidents?

In the past two decades, the number of prescriptions for opioids has increased sevenfold. In fact, the latest statistics show that about 300 million people are taking prescriptions drugs such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and morphine. Perhaps even more frightening than this is the thought that many of those taking such medications may be driving on the same highways and streets that you travel every day.

You are not alone if this thought concerns you. Researchers who have completed a new study believe the prevalence of those driving while taking prescription and non-prescription narcotics is cause for alarm.

Shocking increase in opioid use

Prescription drugs in the narcotic family, including opioids, can have profound effects on a person's ability to operate a motor vehicle. If you have ever had surgery or a serious injury, your doctor may have prescribed a narcotic that made you feel drowsy. You may have had difficulty concentrating or making your body move as you wanted it to. Perhaps your doctor even warned you not to drive while taking the medication.

With this in mind, researchers decided to look into the possibility that drugged driving, like drunk driving is the cause of some car accidents. Their study examined the data for drivers who died in motor vehicle accidents in Hawaii and several other states. The research focused on tests for drugs in the systems of those drivers within an hour of their deaths. The startling details of the study included the following:

  • Twenty-four percent of those tested had drugs in their systems.
  • Three percent of those drugs were prescription opioids.
  • Of those with prescription drugs in their systems, 30 percent also had alcohol in their blood, and 67 percent had apparently ingested other drugs.
  • Women were more likely than men to show positive results for prescription narcotics.

In fact, the presence of prescription narcotics in the systems of female drivers killed in car accidents increased from 1 percent to 7 percent in the past 20 years.

Holding drivers accountable

The researchers stressed that the presence of narcotics in the systems of drivers involved in fatal car accidents does not necessarily mean that the drugs were the cause of the accident or that the drugs impaired the drivers' abilities behind the wheel.

Nevertheless, it may be hard for you to ignore reports of the rapid increase in opioid use and abuse, especially in the face of the dramatic increase in opioid deaths in recent years. If the abuse of narcotics is linked to an accident in which you are injured, you certainly want to have recourse to justice.

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