Over the last two decades, fatally injured drivers who tested positive for opioids rose by 700 percent. Fatal accidents caused by opioid impairment are a major concern for vehicle safety and law enforcement agencies around the country.
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The Prescription Opioid Epidemic
According to a recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health, prescription opioid use has reached epidemic proportions. The opioid epidemic is primarily defined by the number of overdose fatalities. The study revealed that yearly prescriptions of opioids including methadone, oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, and codeine quadrupled between 1991 and 2014, rising from 76 million to nearly 300 million. It’s estimated that almost 4,000 people use prescription opioids every day in the United States. In 2015, data shows that approximately 92 million Americans used prescription opioids. That number equates to the population of Illinois, New York, California, and Florida combined.
Prescription opioids are potent pain medications that can cause dizziness, drowsiness and impaired cognitive functions. They are linked to slowed reactions, memory loss, blurred vision, concentration problems, and the inability to make decisions. When any of these problems occur behind the wheel of a moving car, the results are often serious car accidents with fatal consequences for the driver and passengers in the vehicle. Based on two decades of data involving traffic fatalities, studies show that a large percentage of victims tested positive for drugs and alcohol. Of the drivers who tested positive for prescription opioids, elevated blood alcohol levels were found in 30 percent of fatality victims, and 67 percent tested positive for other types of drugs besides opioids.
Illinois Laws on Impaired Driving
Illinois has laws that pertain to drugged and impaired driving. Laws state that a person may not drive or be in physical control of any vehicle while under the influence of any intoxicating compound or substance, or combination of intoxicating compounds or substances so that he/she is rendered incapable of safe driving.
Illinois’s zero tolerance laws impact any driver who is arrested while driving under the influence of an impaired substance. If a police officer suspects that a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the driver may be arrested. If there is reasonable suspicion that the driver is impaired while behind the wheel, physical evidence of drugs and/or alcohol is not required. In Illinois, a Chicago car accident lawyer commonly sees arrests for impaired driving, especially in young adults and teenagers.