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Expert: Opioid Crisis & Marijuana Legalization Spiking Traffic Deaths

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The opioid crisis and other drug issues are creating a fast-growing risk on Michigan roads, says an expert who spoke to Michigan officers and traffic safety managers. 

Jim Hedlund with Highway Safety North tracks the roles of drivers in fatal wrecks.

He told the Michigan Traffic Safety Summit that crashes caused by drug use increased nationally.

“20-percent of the drivers that were killed in crashes last year had opioids on board," said Hedlund.

Here in Michigan, Hedlund said the percentage of drivers who die after driving drunk is down sharply.. but drug-related driving deaths steadily increased over the past ten years.

Hedlund said better warnings by doctors while prescribing painkillers could help reverse the trend.

“Give the warnings right there, I’m giving you a prescription that will deal with your pain but don’t drive after taking it," said Hedlund.

Hedlund says the rise of legal marijuana use in some states is also causing crashes because it slows the reaction of drivers. 

This fall, voters will decide whether or not to legalize recreational use in Michigan.

Colorado voters already took that step. In 2016, the Colorado Department of Transportation reported 77 deaths caused by auto wrecks in connection with marijuana use.

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