Which Drugs Cause the Most Car Accidents in Utah?

Everyone knows that drunk driving is a major contributing factor to car accidents.  However, narcotics and prescription drugs also play a significant role in causing crashes, especially with the rise of opioid abuse in Utah.  Salt Lake City car accident lawyer Darwin Overson investigates which drugs are responsible for the most auto accidents on Utah’s roads.

Marijuana, Methamphetamine, OxyContin Top 3 Drugs in Fatal Utah Car Crashes

In 2015, the Utah Department of Public Safety (DPS) reported that alcohol was a cause or contributing factor in more than 2,000 auto accidents, 31 of which were fatal.  However, alcohol is not the only substance that increases the risk of getting into a car accident.  Whether they are legally prescribed or purchased illegally from illicit dealers, drugs also cause numerous car accidents.

The question is, what types of drugs do drivers in Utah most typically use?  And just how many drivers are using them?

In February, the DPS set out to investigate this very matter.  According to DPS figures, the top 10 drugs most commonly involved in fatal Utah auto accidents from 2006 to 2015 were:

  1. Xanax (Alprazolam) – 9 positive test results
    9. Nordaz (Nordiazepam) – 14
    8. Cocaine – 14
    7. Valium (Diazepam) – 16
    6. Morphine – 17
    5. Vicodin (Hydrocodone) – 18
    4. Amphetamine – 21
    3. OxyContin (Oxycodone) – 22
    2. Methamphetamine – 74
    1. Marijuana/Cannabis (THC) – 128

Drug-Related Auto Accident Deaths Nearly Triple in Under a Decade

Unfortunately, this problem has gotten worse – not better – with time.

As you can see from Chart 1 below, drug-related car accident fatalities in Utah nearly tripled from 2006 to 2015, climbing from 31 in 2006 – about one death every 12 days – to 83 in 2015, which is about one death every four days.  This staggering increase occurred over a period of just nine years.

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Source: Utah Department of Public Safety

Looking at Chart 2, it’s immediately obvious that there has been a particularly massive spike in the number of Utah drivers who test positive for THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.  In 2006, marijuana use played a role in approximately 10 fatal crashes; but, after a brief decline from 2007 through 2010, nearly quadrupled to about 40 fatal crashes.  In particular, the DPS noted a shocking increase of 280% over just two years (2014 and 2015).  That’s an even greater surge than the increase depicted in Chart 1.

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Source: Utah Department of Public Safety

While marijuana currently bears the brunt of the responsibility for drug-related accident deaths in Utah, methamphetamine has also played a significant role, causing at least 52 more fatalities than any other drug on the DPS’ list.

The use of methamphetamine, as well as other stimulant drugs (“uppers”) like cocaine and amphetamine, seem to be particularly prominent in the trucking industry, according to some data.  For instance, peer-reviewed research published in the Journal of Forensic Science in 2002 revealed that, out of 822 urine specimens taken from commercial truck drivers, “21% of the urine specimens tested positive for either illicit, prescription, and/or over-the-counter drugs, and 7% tested positive for more than one drug.”  Nearly 10% of the positive specimens tested positive for various stimulants.  Marijuana followed closely behind, “with 4.3% of drivers testing positive for marijuana metabolites.”

Though the prescription-related statistical figures for fatal car crashes are smaller, the abuse of prescription drugs – particularly opioids like oxycodone (OxyContin) and hydrocodone (Vicodin) – is becoming a larger and larger problem, not only in Utah, but throughout the United States.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “[T]he rate of deaths from drug overdoses has increased 137% [since 2000], including a 200% increase in the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids.”  It is tragic – but perhaps unsurprising, given these dire figures – that prescription drugs are becoming so prevalent in fatal vehicular accidents.

Salt Lake City Car Accident Attorney Representing Victims of Drug-Impaired Drivers

If you lost a loved one to a fatal car accident in Utah, and the accident was caused by an intoxicated or impaired driver, you may be entitled to compensation.  While no amount of compensation can return the life that was lost, you deserve to pursue justice and accountability for the suffering you have experienced because of the drugged driver’s careless actions.  As a fierce legal advocate for the surviving spouses and family members of fatal accident victims in Utah, Summit County car accident attorney Darwin Overson can help you fight for that justice.

Darwin Overson has more than 33 years of experience handling personal injury claims and wrongful death lawsuits throughout Utah, including but not limited to Salt Lake County, Summit County, Wasatch County, Davis County, Morgan County, Cache County, Duchesne County, Tooele County, and Box Elder County.  Darwin has dedicated his legal career to representing the victims of negligence and recklessness, and has earned a reputation for handling complex, emotionally-charged litigation with compassion and sensitivity for his clients.  To speak confidentially with Darwin in a free legal consultation, call the law offices of Overson Law at (801) 895-3143.

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