Opioid Use Among Truckers Analyzed in New Study
A new study about the use of opioids and its influence on highway accidents shows a disturbing increase in the number of accidents caused by opioid use.
Overall Influence of Opioids on Accidents
The study initially sought to characterize opioid use in six states, including California, since these states routinely did drug panels on drivers after an accident when fatalities occurred. Over the years 1995 to 2015, the incidence of opioid use rose to 7.2 percent in 2015 from less than 1 percent in 1995. This matches the surge in opioid use overall in the population.
Most Common Opioids Found in Fatal Accidents
Of 36,000 drivers who perished within 60 minutes of an accident, the number of opioid users increased by 6 percent. Of all drugs classified as opioids, there were three that were found most often: morphine, oxycodone and hydrocodone. In addition to the opioids, additional drugs and alcohol were found with alcohol use at 67 percent and other drugs at 30 percent.
Truck Driver Statistics
Overall, truck drivers are less likely to have a positive result for drug or alcohol use than individuals who drive passenger vehicles. This is linked to the use of drug testing on truck drivers and the penalties a truck driver faces when he or she is found to be driving while impaired.
Drug Panels for Truck Drivers
Currently, prescription opioids are not commonly included in test panels used in truckers. An amendment, proposed by the Department of Transportation, seeks to add the opioids oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydromorphone and hydrocodone to the testing panel. As of yet, the amendment is awaiting final approval.
How Truck Drivers Will Fare
The co-researcher of the study who is a professor at Columbia University and founder of the center for anesthesiology and epidemiology, Dr. Li, expects the incidence of use in truckers will increase by about 4 percent initially. Truck drivers are allowed to take prescription opioids as long as their use does not interfere with their ability to drive. In order to document that, the drivers must have clearance from a doctor who is certified by the DOT to do so, stating that there is no impairment after taking the drugs as directed. Since opioids can cause drowsiness, diminished alertness and impaired reaction time, this is an important consideration.
How to Measure Opioid Consumption
There is no standard test to measure the concentration of opioids similar to a blood alcohol concentration test. Tests done for opioids simply measure whether the driver has taken an opioid drug within the recent past. Because of this, clearance for drivers who are prescribed opioids is based on whether the driver is taking the prescribed dose and has become resistant to side effects that may impede safe driving.
Problems With Opioids
One of the chief issues with opioid consumption is that problems are often associated with a driver’s use of alcohol or other drugs, both illicit and prescribed. For example, alcohol amplifies the side effects of opioids to the extent that safe driving may not be possible.
Accidents Seen With Impaired Drivers
Drivers who take opioids in a manner inconsistent with their doctor’s directions and others who combine alcohol with opioid use have a greater propensity for roadway accidents. Two of the most common are the run-off-road accident and rollover accident since both require adequate judgment and the ability to react appropriately to changing conditions.
Injuries in Accidents With Impaired Truckers
The injuries incurred due to a collision with a big rig reflect the weight and size of a truck. According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, the occupants of passenger vehicles have a 69 percent risk of death as compared to 16 percent for truck occupants. This divergence solidifies the necessity of truckers refraining from substances that can impair their ability to drive.
Injuries common to accidents involving a truck are:
- Neck trauma
- Spinal cord injuries
- Traumatic brain injury
Fresno Truck Accident Lawyer
I’m Ed Smith, a Fresno Truck Accident Lawyer. If you or a family member has been injured by an impaired trucker, call me at (916) 921-6400. If you are out of the area, please use my toll-free number, which is (800) 404-5400. I will offer you friendly advice that is free of charge.
Both my team and myself are experienced in truck accident law and will help you receive compensation for your traumatic injuries. If a member of your family has died, we are here to file a wrongful death claim against the negligent driver.
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Photo Attribution: https://pixabay.com/en/accident-truck-bridge-vehicle-1771946/
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