Opioid use factors into quite a few car accidents in Wisconsin as well as in other states. In 2016, the percentage of crash initiators nationwide who tested positive for opioids was 7.1%, a significant rise from the 2% of 1993. Now, a study in JAMA Network Open has analyzed the possible role of opioids in thousands of fatal two-car crashes.

Its conclusion was that crash initiators were almost twice as likely as the other driver to be found with opioids in their systems. Researchers analyzed fatal two-car crashes involving a total of 1,467 drivers who tested positive for opioids, and of these, 918 were crash initiators while 549 were not.

Opioids are known to impair judgment and motor skills, and they can cause drowsiness, leading drivers to drift out of their lane and crash. Incidentally, drifting out of one’s lane was the driver error behind the most number of fatal two-car crashes regardless of whether the crashes involved opioids or not.

However, there are distinctions to be made between opioid use and abuse: something that critics point out the researchers did not do. These critics state that people on a chronic, stable opioid prescription develop a tolerance for the drug’s effects and may drive without impairment, in which case opioid use is less likely to factor into the crash.

The study only associates opioid use with crashes rather than saying that one causes the other. Determining opioid use to be the cause of motor vehicle accidents is, however, an important step for victims who wish to file a personal injury claim. After all, driving under the influence of drugs is a form of negligence. Before filing their claim, victims may wish to retain legal counsel. The lawyer might hire investigators and drug experts to assist in strengthening the case.