New numbers show alarming rise in drugged driving fatalities

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — New numbers show a huge spike in fatal crashes involving drivers under the influence of prescription drugs.

“I can remember being prescribed opiate pain medication and it was like, ‘OK in my mind, well, I’m not drinking so it’s alright,” Stephanie Trent said.

Trent is a recovering addict who now works with families of addicts at The McShin Foundation. Trent says one day while driving high with her kids, she started to nod off.

“My 14-year-old son had to shake me out of the nod to save the lives of me and my children, we were like going off the road and that was a direct use of opiates,” said Trent.

For decades, there have been campaigns against drunk driving. It hasn’t been until the past few years that a spotlight has begun to shine on drugged driving. According to a new report published in the American Journal of Public Health, there were seven times as many fatal crashes involving drivers high on prescription drugs in 2015 compared to 1995.

According to a new report published in the American Journal of Public Health, there were seven times as many fatal crashes involving drivers high on prescription drugs in 2015 compared to 1995.

“Overcorrected and almost ended up flipping my car. My kids were with me at the time also,” Erin Mayberry said.

Mayberry, another recovering addict working at The McShin Foundation, says part of the problem has been the perception that prescription drugs are a safer alternative to alcohol.

“I wouldn’t think twice about getting in a car after taking opiates,” Mayberry said.

She says the mistake can be costly.

“I had 16 months clean and I got a bill in the mail for almost $14,000 for an accident that I caused before I got clean,” Mayberry explained.

But Mayberry and Trent say the financial costs are nothing compared to what could have happened if they continued to use drugs and drive.

“You can kill people just the same way you can kill people drinking and driving,” Trent said.

8News also reached out to DMV for statewide numbers. In 2012 there were 12 drugged drivers killed in crashes in Virginia. That number nearly doubled in 2016 with 23 drugged drivers killed in crashes.

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