The opioid crisis, which has become a national epidemic, is also having a massive impact in all areas of life in Tennessee including traffic safety.
The abuse of prescription opioid painkillers such as fentanyl, oxycodone along with heroin, which patients often turn to when they are no longer able to procure prescription drugs has been on the rise and it is taking a toll on the lives of those caught in the relentless grip of addiction.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that between 1999 and 2015, more than 183,000 people have died in the U.S. from overdoses related to prescription opioids. Opioids killed more than 33,000 people in 2015 alone, which is more than any year on record.
In Tennessee, there were 1,263 opioid overdose deaths in 2014 and 1,451 in 2015. In Knox County, for 2016 there were 244 deaths from opioid overdoses, and there have been 266 overdose deaths so far in 2017. The Knox County District Attorney, Charme Allen, said that drug dealers are being charged with homicide in connection to the overdose deaths of their clients. So far, 11 alleged drug dealers have been charged with first degree murder. (WKRN.com)
Unfortunately, the number of opioid overdose deaths is likely to be largely underreported, said Dr. Adele Lewis, Deputy State Chief Medical examiner in a story on Knox News. These drugs cause people to feel overly elated and euphoric and then markedly drowsy, losing consciousness and nodding off. Like alcohol, opioids can slow a driver’s reaction time and impair clear thinking, which puts the driver at risk and the other drivers on the road at risk.
Opioid-related car crashes are on the rise
Because of so many people having powerful opioid drugs in their system at any given time, it is beginning to take a toll on traffic safety. With so many Tennesseans and Americas throughout the U.S. walking around addicted to opioids, it is going to have a knock-on effect to all aspects of life.
Researchers from Columbia University recently found a sevenfold increase in the number of traffic fatalities involving drivers who were under the influence of opioids at the time of a crash since 1995. The researchers analyzed data between 1995 and 2015 and found that in 1995 about one percent of drivers had opioid painkillers in their system at the time of a traffic crash and in 2017 7.2 percent of those driver tested positive for those drugs. Lead study researcher, Stanford Chihuri said, “The significant increase in proportion of drivers who test positive for prescription pain medications is an urgent public health concern,” in a story on CBS News. Chihuri also emphasized the need for additional study on the issue of how prescription pain medications play a role in traffic accidents.
Jim Hedlund, a spokesman for the Governors Highway Safety Association, noted in the CBS News story that it was not clear that the protocols used in the different states were the same, and it was also unclear as to whether the painkillers were the cause of the crash. The presence of the drug does not imply impairment. But Hedlund agreed with the results of the study, and underscored the need for doctors and pharmacists to inform their patients about how these drugs can impair them and not to take them before they drive.
If you or someone you care about has been injured in a car crash that was caused by someone else’s negligence, a Nashville car accident attorney can help protect your right to compensation.
At the Rocky McElhaney Law Firm, we fight for you when you suffer an injury because of someone else’s negligence. We demand compensation for all your medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages. If you were hurt in a car accident, you are encouraged to call us at 615-246-5549 or fill out our contact form to make an appointment. We have offices in Nashville, Hendersonville, and Knoxville.