Opioids cause psychomotor and cognitive impairment, so those who take opioids and drive raise their risk for a car crash. In California and across the U.S., the opioid crisis is contributing to car crash rates, but there is debate as to whether rates are rising. One study shows that while 2% of crash initiators had opioids in their system in 1993, that percentage was 7.1% in 2016. On the other hand, fewer opioid prescriptions are being written.

A study in JAMA Network Open has touched upon this controversy but has not cleared it up. Instead, researchers looked at the possible role that opioid use has in fatal two-car crashes. Using NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, they looked at 1,467 opioid-using drivers who were involved in such crashes and discovered that 918 of them were the crash initiators.

In addition, out of the 18,321 fatal two-car crashes that researchers studied, 7,073 of the crash initiators had alcohol in their system. The proportion between those who initiated the crash and those who did not was even greater in this case: 5,258 versus 1,815.

Of the various opioids that are out there, hydrocodone was the most widely used, being found in 32% of drivers. This was followed by morphine at 27%, oxycodone at 19% and methadone at 14%.

Drugged and drunk driving are just two forms of negligence. Whenever negligence is behind a crash, those who were injured and who were not to blame can file a personal injury claim. Building up the case and negotiating for a fair settlement are another matter, so victims may want to retain legal counsel. A lawyer might hire investigators and other third parties to obtain the police report and any other pertinent evidence. Then, the lawyer may negotiate or litigate.