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Study finds opioids linked to some fatal 2-car crashes

America's opioid crisis is hitting Pennsylvania's roadways, according to a new study published in JAMA Network Open. The study found that drivers found at fault for causing fatal two-vehicle crashes were almost twice as likely to test positive for prescription painkillers as drivers who did not cause the crash. The study was released in mid-February.

For the study, researchers analyzed car crash data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System to determine the role opioids play in fatal car crashes. They found that 7,535 of 18,321 deadly two-vehicle crashes were caused by drivers who veered from their lane. Of the drivers who were found at fault for the accidents, 918 tested positive for opioids. In contrast, 549 of the drivers who were not found at fault had opioids in their system. The study also found that the percentage of at-fault drivers who tested positive for prescription painkillers jumped from just 2 percent in 1993 to over 7 percent in 2016.

Overall, 1,467 drivers tested positive for opioids. The most common opioid was hydrocodone, which was found in 32 percent of tested drivers. Morphine, oxycodone and methadone came next, turning up in the bloodstreams of 27 percent, 19 percent and 14 percent of tested drivers, respectively. According to the authors of the study, their findings do not prove that opioids cause fatal car crashes. Instead, the findings suggest an association between prescription painkiller use and fatal accidents.

Victims of drug-related car crashes often require lengthy periods of costly medical treatment. They might want to have a lawyer's help in seeking a settlement from the at-fault driver's insurance company.

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