The unfortunate truth is that New Jersey, like many states, is facing an opioid crisis. Data compiled by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality show that New Jersey has one of the highest numbers of opioid-related emergency room visits in the nation.

In addition, many black-market pills, which people resort to when they can no longer obtain a valid prescription, may contain other drugs, including heroin, which is often cheaper and easier to get than prescription medication. Other opioids that have appeared recently in the state include tetrahydro fentanyl and acrylfentanyl. Even an opioid used to tranquilize elephants that is 5,000 times stronger than morphine has made it into New Jersey.

It is a public health crisis in more ways than one. In addition to the thousands of overdose deaths in the state, there has been a significant increase in opioid-related accidents in the state.

Traffic Fatalities up 7 percent

According to the Insurance Journal, a sharp 7 percent rise in overall traffic fatalities is tied to an increased number of drivers dependent on opioids and distracted driving.

The rise is more than just a number. Families of the numerous people who had their lives cut short due to a preventable accident must struggle daily with the loss of their loved one.

Not just “an accident”

Calling opioid-related car crashes an accident is somewhat misleading. Fatalities and serious injuries that result in a traffic collision are preventable. Drugged, drunk and distracted driving are all preventable, and steps can and should be taken to minimize the number of people needlessly harmed or killed in traffic collisions.

New Jersey is relatively tough on laws involving prescription painkillers. Distracted driving is against the law. Still, accidents occur with alarming frequency.

If an injury or fatality does occur in a preventable accident, the law also allows victims to hold those responsible accountable for their actions through a civil lawsuit. If successful, a lawsuit also allows the victim, or victim’s family, compensation to help offset the significant financial consequences of an accident.