Opioid car crashes down, but drugged driving remains a problem

Frank S. Clowney III

The opioid epidemic in our nation is still a significant issue, but there is good news. Efforts to mitigate opioid use have led to fewer car crashes caused by drugged driving.

Opioid drugged driving crashes decline

Research has demonstrated that motorists taking opioid medications are two times more likely to be involved in a motor vehicle collision than sober motorists.

Researchers at Yale studied how many motorists were involved in collisions involving opioid use that did not result in fatalities between the years of 2014 and 2018.

The results of the study showed that the number of motorists on opioids at the time of their crash went down by 28% after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued changes to its opioid prescription guidelines in 2016.

Drugged driving and car crashes

It is good news that mitigation efforts by government agencies are helping to reduce the number of opioid-related drugged driving crashes in the United States. Still, drugged driving, whether it involves opioids or other drugs, continues to be a factor in many car crashes in the United States.

One issue that compounds the drugged-driving problem is that it is difficult to determine how many motor vehicle accidents are the result of drugged driving.

For example, if a motorist is suspected of being drunk, there are roadside breath and blood tests that can immediately and accurately determine the amount of alcohol in the motorist’s system. But as of now, there are no reliable roadside tests for determining the levels of drugs in a motorist’s system at the time of a crash.

This is made more difficult by the fact that some drugs can remain in your body for many days or even weeks after they are ingested. Even if a motorist tests positive for a drug at the time of a crash, it is not always apparent when the drug was used and if its presence caused the motorist to be impaired at the time of the crash.

Ultimately, all drivers have a duty to drive safely for the sake of others on the road. A failure to meet this duty, for example, by using drugs and then causing a car crash, can lead to injuries or fatalities and subsequent legal action brought by the crash victim.