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Drivers’ Opioid Use Associated With Fatal Car Crashes

Drivers testing positive for prescription opioids more than twice as likely to initiate fatal two-vehicle crash

FRIDAY, March 1, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Drivers’ use of prescription opioids is associated with initiation of fatal two-vehicle crashes independent of alcohol use, according to a study published online Feb. 15 in JAMA Network Open.

Stanford Chihuri, M.P.H., and Guohua Li, M.D., Dr.P.H., both from Columbia University in New York City, used data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (1993 through 2016) to assess the association between driver use of prescription opioids and the risk for being culpable for crash initiation in 18,321 fatal two-vehicle crashes.

The researchers found that the most common driving error leading to fatal two-vehicle crashes was failure to keep in the lane (41 percent). Compared with nonculpable drivers, drivers culpable for initiating the crashes were more likely to test positive for prescription opioids (5 versus 3 percent), alcohol (blood alcohol concentration [BAC] ≥0.01 g/dL; 28.7 percent versus 9.9 percent), and both substances (1 versus 0.3 percent). Compared with drivers testing negative, the adjusted odds ratio (aOR) of crash initiation was higher for drivers testing positive for prescription opioids (aOR, 2.18) and increased with BACs (BAC 0.01 to 0.07 g/dL: aOR, 1.97; BAC ≥0.08 g/dL: aOR, 8.2, versus BAC <0.01 g/dL).

“Clinicians should take into consideration the adverse effect of opioid analgesics on driving safety while prescribing these medications and counseling patients,” the authors write.

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