Opioid Use and Fatal Car Crashes
Over recent years, Maryland has seen a significant increase in the epidemic of opioid addiction. At the same time, a corresponding increase in traffic fatalities has not occurred among drivers found with these drugs in their systems. This is according to a recent report evaluating data from the Maryland state medical examiner. The study was conducted by the state medical examiner in Baltimore in cooperation with researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
One of the study’s authors, Johnathon P. Ehansi, stated that “The fact that opioid crashes in Maryland over the last 10 years have been more or less steady was a surprise.” He further said, “That is striking, because Maryland is one of those states that has been quite severely affected by the overall opioid epidemic.”
Determining which drivers involved in a crash have opioids in their system before a crash is complicated for an important reason. Oftentimes, emergency medical crews administer opioids to injured victims which contain fentanyl, a powerful painkiller. When autopsies of these individuals are performed, the opioids present in the painkillers are detected.
In order to filter out the above-mentioned cases, the researchers focused specifically on a subgroup of drivers who died at the scene of the car crash, and not days or weeks later after receiving medical care that included opioids. In that subgroup, researchers believe, there is a smaller likelihood of pain management-related opioids efforts being found in their systems.
Risks resulting from opioid-intoxicated motorists
Just because scientists did not see the spike they expected to see in the data, does not mean that other drivers aren’t at risk of a collision with a drugged driver. More than half of driving mistakes made by drivers on opioids involved a failure to stay within their driving lane.
Furthermore, when a driver consumes alcohol and also takes opioids, with both present in the individual’s system at the same time, the risk of a deadly car accident is doubled.
In the state of Maryland, driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent is driving under the influence. However, a person’s level of coordination and concentration begin to suffer with a BAC of 0.05 percent. Add opioids into the mix, and even a driver whose BAC is well below the legal limit will be unsafe behind the wheel.
Responsibility of doctors
Doctors who prescribe opioids and other painkillers have a responsibility to educate their patients on the potential effects of these drugs on driving ability. These effects should be understood as the real risks of taking such drugs.
Opioids increase drowsiness, slow down reaction times, and negatively impact a driver’s judgment while operating a motor vehicle. Physicians have a unique place of authority to explain these facts and risks to their patients.
As a trusted injury law firm in Maryland, Plaxen Adler Muncy, P.A. is here to help you in the aftermath of any car accident injury you have suffered by another party. We can help you secure the compensation you deserve for your injuries and losses. To arrange a free case evaluation with a Maryland car crash attorney from our team, call us today at 410.730.7737 or use our contact form.