Traffic Deaths Related to Prescription Drug Use Doubles - WBOY - Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Traffic Deaths Related to Prescription Drug Use Doubles

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Driving isn't always an easy task. Drivers have to worry about the people around them, and their state of mind. When those people are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, even prescribed ones, things could get dangerous.

The WVU Injury and Control Research Center did a study that found the use of prescription drugs in fatal car accidents doubled over a decade.

"We found that driver use of prescription drugs such as Opioids and Benzodiazapines has risen a lot," said Motao Zhu, the Program Director at ICRC. "The use of marijuana has increased, but the use of illegal drugs like cocaine has decreased recently."

Local law enforcement has noticed the change, too.

"I've had a few fatalities within the past few years that, based on their toxicology, they had a toxic level of prescription medication in their system at the time," said Captain Mark Ralston of the Monongalia County Sheriff's Department.

The Injury and Control Research Center used FARS, or Fatality Analysis Reporting System, to study the patterns.

"This is just for those people who died in the crash. They are detected of the drugs in their blood or urine," said Zhu. "We do not consider the other persons killed by these drivers."

This means that the fatality numbers related to prescription drug crashes could be even higher than the ICRC research.

Whether you are prescribed the drug or not, it's still considered driving under the influence and can be a crime.

"It's the same charge, the same penalties," Captain Ralston said. "Anything intoxicating, even if it's prescribed medication, if you have take enough of it to impair your ability to drive through a blood test or any kind of a drug toxicology test that can be determined, then you can also be prosecuted for that."

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