The opioid overdose epidemic has been a top-priority for safety advocates as well as federal agencies for several years now. However, a little-known fact that has not garnered as much press is that opioid use has also contributed to an increase in the number of car accidents linked to drivers who were driving while under the influence of these painkillers.
A dependence on opioid medications or painkillers like Oxycontin has been blamed for a nationwide crisis that has raged unabated. In 2017 alone, 47,000 Americans died as the result of an opioid overdose. Deaths from opioid overdoses increased 14% nationwide in that year. In Georgia, however, opioid deaths increased over 16% in 2017. And to make it more a part of the daily conversation, social media has been awash with images and videos of addicts passed out or dead in their cars, sidewalks and commercial spaces.
Now, researchers at the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia University Medical Center say that there is ample evidence that opioid painkillers and drivers high under the influence of medications like Oxycontin are also causing an increasing number of car accidents. Their conclusions are based on results from a study that was conducted on 18,000 drivers involved in fatal accidents between 1993 and 2016. According to the researchers, the number of fatal car accidents involving drivers under the influence of opioid painkillers actually tripled over this 25-year period.
Painkillers like Oxycontin can cause side effects such as drowsiness, muscular fatigue, and impaired psychomotor abilities. These painkillers not only affect a person’s cognitive abilities, but can also seriously impair a person’s judgment. All of these side effects can severely reduce a person’s abilities to safely drive while on this medication thereby putting them and others on the road at an increased risk for an accident.
Overall, the researchers say that the use of painkillers like Oxycontin can double a motorist’s risk of causing an accident. About 55% of the car accidents in the study involved drivers who failed to stay in their lane. This is a common error made by drivers who are under the influence of Oxycontin and similar painkillers. Veering from one’s lane is one of the most common causes of fatal accidents, and accounts for as many as 4 in 10 of all two-car accidents. Drivers under the influence of opioids are particularly susceptible to such accidents.
There are many other medications besides Oxycontin that can increase drowsiness, confusion, disorientation, and cause other side effects that impact a person’s judgment and reflexes. Driving while on any of these medications endangers the safety of the motorist as well as other drivers who may be sharing the roads with him. In fact, many medications expressly forbid users from operating a motor vehicle while on these medications, for this very reason.
Ensure that the prescription drugs you are on include no side effects that could place you at risk of an accident. Talk to your doctor and discuss side effects like drowsiness. You should also ask for alternatives if there are such side effects included with the use of the drug.
If you have been injured in a car accident, you may be eligible for damages that include compensation for medical expenses and lost income. Discuss filing a claim for damages with an Atlanta car accident lawyer at the Katz Law Firm.