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Cherry Examines Road Traffic Injuries and the Opioid Crisis

Front of a car with broken headlamp.

At any given time, about 20 percent of drivers have a potentially impairing drug in their system. Road traffic injuries and drug overdoses are the two leading causes of injury death in the United States (US), with about 2 million people injured in the US each year.

Opioids and other drugs affect driving abilities, and crash-related injuries often result in opioid prescribing, creating a potential feedback loop from crash to injury and pain to opioid use and back to crash. However, very little is actually known about the interactions between transportation and opioid use, which is one reason Professor Chris Cherry and a collaborative research team was interested in learning more about the connection between prescription monitoring and crash databases.

Their research, published in American Journal of Preventive Medicine, provides an overview of how police crash databases and prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMP) data can be linked with a follow-up discussion of PDMP–crash data, potentially transferable lessons from other efforts, and knowledge gaps that could be addressed using linked PDMP and police crash data.

The PDMP have population-based data systems that contain information on prescription drug histories. Coupled with detailed traffic crash circumstances, they can provide a window to advance understanding of prescription drug trajectories leading to crash events and effects of improving road safety as a strategy to reduce injury and subsequent prescription drug use.

The team’s findings show that routine, ongoing linkage of these data sources is lacking. However, many states have strong linkage foundations in opioid or road safety arenas, providing opportunities to improve system understanding.

Their paper concludes that a complete exploration of opioid and traffic-safety system requires comprehensive health, substance, and travel data.