Opioid epidemic is making West Virginia’s highways dangerous

West Virginia has the highest opioid overdose rate in the country, which is leading to more drugged driving.

West Virginia has been one of the states hardest hit by the opioid epidemic, with an overdose death rate that far outpaces any other state in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report. Now the effects of the opioid epidemic are being felt on the state's roads and highways. That's because motor vehicle accidents related to drugged driving are up dramatically. While drugged driving has increased substantially across the United States, West Virginia is seeing some of the highest rates of drugged driving in the country.

Opioid epidemic on the road

A good indication of just how big of an effect the opioid epidemic is having in terms of traffic safety was detailed in a recent study by Columbia University researchers. Those researchers analyzed drug test results from a handful of states, including West Virginia, of drivers who had been killed in car crashes. The study looked at accidents going back all the way to 1995.

As USA Today reports, the study showed that in 1995 just one percent of deceased drivers tested positive for prescription opioids. By 2015, however, that figure had increased more than seven times over to 7.2 percent. Just as worrying was the fact that researchers also found that 30 percent of deceased drivers who tested positive for opioids also had high levels of alcohol in their systems. Mixing opioids with alcohol is especially dangerous and can make drivers highly impaired.

West Virginia's drugged drivers

When looking at West Virginia specifically, the drugged driving situation is particularly grim. As WDTV News reports, another study by alcoholic.org used two decades' worth of data by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to see how states ranked in terms of the number of fatal drugged driving accidents per capita. Unfortunately, West Virginia topped the list, with 2.33 fatal drugged driving accidents per 100,000 residents, higher than any other state.

Of course, drugged driving affects not just those who are driving while impaired, but everybody else on the road as well. Drugged drivers can become drowsy, suffer from slow response times, and even lose consciousness while behind the wheel. That sort of behavior imperils the safety of all road users and it is something that law enforcement agencies are struggling to counteract.

Personal injury law

There is no excuse for driving while impaired, whether it is by drugs or alcohol. For those who have been hurt in an accident that may have been caused by an impaired driver, it is important to know that help is at hand. A personal injury attorney can assist accident victims in a variety of ways, including by showing them what types of compensation they may be entitled to and helping them throughout the claims process.