California drivers should know about a study published in JAMA Network Open because it concerns the role of prescription opioid use in many fatal two-car crashes. Analysts found that in these crashes, the drivers who were deemed at fault were twice as likely as the other driver involved to test positive for opioids. This shows that the nationwide opioid epidemic is starting to impact the roads.

The study involved 18,321 fatal two-car crashes, all of which were recorded in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System that is maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. A total of 918 at-fault drivers were found to be using opioids whereas 549 tested positive for it who were not at fault. Also, 5,258 at-fault drivers tested positive for alcohol, compared to 1,815 who were not at fault.

Of the 1,467 drivers who tested positive for opioids, 32% had hydrocodone in their system, 27% had morphine, 19% had oxycodone and 14% had methadone. Not all opioid users necessarily experience psychomotor and cognitive impairment, though; many build up a tolerance to such effects, and so it can be said that the opioids did not really contribute to the crash. Those who are taking the opioids to treat an acute injury, though, will become impaired, causing crashes by drifting out of their lane.

Of course, there is a distinction between opioid use and abuse. When opioid abuse is behind motor vehicle crashes, then those who were injured through no fault of their own can have good grounds for a claim. They may want to hire a lawyer, though, for advice and guidance. The lawyer may bring in third parties to obtain a copy of the police report and any other available evidence.