Opioid Impairment and its Relationship to Traffic Fatalities in Illinois


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Illinois has witnessed a significant increase in fatalities caused by opioid impairment. These drugs have a significant impact on the ability to safely drive. Personal injury victims may wish to consider whether it is possible that opioids may have been involved in their accident so that their personal injury lawyer can take steps to protect their legal rights.

Opioid Use

Opioids are strong pain medications that are often prescribed when a person has been injured in a work accident, car accident or fall. These drugs include oxycodone, hydrocodone, methadone, codeine and morphine. While they are effective in relieving pain, they have serious side effects. These side effects include drowsiness, dizziness, slowed reaction, impaired judgment, blurred vision, memory loss, concentration problems and impaired cognitive function. Many of these side effects directly impede a personís ability to safely drive.

Effect of Opioid Use on Driving

Due to the significant side effects that are associated with opioids, individuals who take these prescription medications and then get behind the wheel are at a heightened risk of cuasing a serious car accident. Many individuals are under the influence of opioids and alcohol . Many of these individuals comprise a significant portion of traffic fatalities in Illinois and other states. Of drivers who tested positive for prescription opioids, 30 percent of fatality victims had elevated blood alcohol levels. Additionally, 67 percent tested positive for other types of drugs.

Opioid Use on the Rise

Over the last 20 years, fatally injured drivers who tested positive for opioids increased by 700 percent. Fatal accidents have become a common concern for the safety of other motorists. It has also been targeted by law enforcement agencies across the country. The country is currently experiencing an opioid epidemic, which is based on the number of overdose fatalities.

In 1991, there were approximately 76 million prescriptions for these drugs. However, in 2014, there were 300 million prescriptions for the same drugs. Approximately, 4,000 people use opioids a day.

Impaired Driving

Illinois has a number of laws that pertain to impaired driving. Motorists in Illinois should not be behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol or drug, including prescription drugs. Illinois has a zero tolerance policy regarding the influence of an impaired substance, so a person can be arrested for even a slight amount of drugs in his or her system. A law enforcement officer can stop a person whom he or she believes is under the influence of drugs.

Accident Investigations

When a motor vehicle accident results in serious injury or fatalities, there may be a more thorough investigation that is conducted. If drug use is suspected, the law enforcement officer investigate whether there was criminal activity involved, such as impaired driving or drug possession. A law enforcement officer may test a motorist for drugs or alcohol at the scene of the accident or at the hospital if the motorist was injured. The law enforcement officer may also look in the vehicle for the presence of alcohol or drugs.

Insurance companies or personal injury lawyers may also hire an independent investigator to investigate the cause of the accident. These individuals may go to the scene of the accident, look for skid marks, photograph relevant things at the scene of the accident. The investigator may interview witnesses, take measurements of stationary objects at the scene, document evidence and review reports. He or she uses this information to try to determine the cause of the accident and the person who is liable for it.

Role of Accident Reconstruction

A personal injury lawyer may use accident reconstruction tools and resources to help determine how a car accident occurred. Accident reconstruction involves the use of technology, physical evidence and collision simulation to determine the cause of a motor vehicle accident to determine who was at fault for an accident.

Accident reconstruction uses the evidence collected during the investigation process to determine how the accident most likely happened. This process can show the speed of the vehicles by taking into consideration the weight of the vehicles, the direction the vehicles were traveling in, the final position of the vehicle and the point of impact. Accident reconstruction can be useful in determining the cause of head-on collisions, side-impact collisions, rollovers and rear-end collisions.

Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer for Assistance

If you were injured in a car accident that you believed was caused by opioid usage, it is important that you quickly contact an experienced Illinois personal injury lawyer. He or she can take steps to protect your rights.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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