Car crashes caused by drivers who have overdosed are increasing in alarming numbers that cases of such are fast becoming commonplace, according to authorities. So much so that rescue crews have gotten so used to automatically administering the antidote, naloxene, to any unresponsive driver they encounter at an accident scene even before establishing if they overdosed on drugs or lost consciousness for other reasons.
The cases of overdosing drivers involved in crashes are happening too many and too often in recent times. There’s the incident of an SUV that crashed after all its four occupants overdosed on heroin in North Carolina. Another case in Williamsport, Pennsylvania where a man grabbed the steering wheel after his grandson lost consciousness while driving. Police in the city of only 30,000 residents have already responded to 11 other overdose reports on that day alone, including a case of a woman who crashed her car just before reaching a highway entrance. And there are many more crash cases with one of the most glaring common denominators being overdosed drivers.
Police explain that people who use heroin and related drugs are at times too excited to get high, or so sick from withdrawal, that they’ll shoot up in the car as soon as they get their hands on more of the drugs. Many times, they resume driving before the effects of overdose take hold, and they lose consciousness afterwards- a sure recipe for road disasters.
Scott Houston, a major with the sheriff’s office in Pamlico County, North Carolina, where the SUV crashed on June 29, explained: “There’s no waiting period like we used to see with other drugs where you go buy it, then go home and get high, or go to a party and get high. We don’t see that anymore.”
More people are being charged for overdose driving. In some cases, however, the crashes and accidents caused by drivers who overdosed have led to fatalities like in the June 2016 case of a Michigan man named Charles Pickett, Jr., who allegedly took some pain killers and muscle relaxers and rammed his pickup truck into a group of bicyclists, killing five of them. Police at the scene later described him as “completely out of it.” And there are many other cases of overdose driving leading to fatalities or near-death experiences either for the drivers, their passengers, or their potential victims on the road.
Interestingly, drunken-driving-related deaths are on the decline, dropping 24 percent since 2006 based from the data of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Deaths in crashes involving drugs, in sharp contrast, are soaring.
Ohio alone saw 4,615 drug-related crashes last year, an increase of more than 21 percent since 2013. Pennsylvania saw a similar increase, with drugged-driving crashes jumping from 3,019 in 2011 to 4,078 last year. Fatalities on the national level also shot up from 2,003 in 1993 to 7,438 in 2015. The use of naloxene by emergency responders have also increased. Many of the drugged-driving overdose cases happened in parked cars whether in the parking lots, near their homes or sitting in the middle of an intersection after they nodded off.