The association between opioid analgesics and unsafe driving actions preceding fatal crashes

Currently, most epidemiological research into the impact of opioid analgesics on road safety has focused on the association between opioid use and traffic crash occurrence. Yet, the role of opioid analgesics on crash responsibility is still not properly understood. Therefore, we examined the impact of opioid analgesics on drivers (all had a confirmed BAC = 0) involved in fatal crashes (1993-2006) using a case-control design based on data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System. Cases had one or more crash-related unsafe driving actions (UDA) recorded; controls had none. We calculated adjusted odds ratios (ORs) of any UDA by medication exposure after controlling for age, sex, other medications, and driving record. Compared to drivers who tested negative for opioid analgesics, female drivers who tested positive demonstrated increased odds of performing an UDA from ages 25 (OR: 1.35; 95% CI: 1.05; 1.74) to 55 (OR: 1.30; 95% CI: 1.07; 1.58). For male drivers this was true from ages 25 (OR: 1.66; 95% CI: 1.32; 2.09) to 65 (OR: 1.39; 95% CI: 1.17; 1.67). The detection of opioid analgesics was not associated with greater risk of an UDA for older drivers. Research is necessary to examine why these age differences exist, and if possible, to ensure that opioid analgesics do not contribute to crashes.


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  • Accession Number: 01146365
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS, ATRI
  • Created Date: Dec 7 2009 1:18PM