Drunk driving has certainly been a major concern in America for decades. However, depending on the area, statistics show that this issue has become more complex than once thought. News reports circulating around the Knoxville area of Tennessee indicate that there is an additional cause of substance-related motor vehicle accidents: that of prescription medications. 

WBIR News claims that drugged driving caused more accidents in Tennessee than alcohol in recent years. According to the report, the opioid epidemic in America has inevitably had a hand in this change, which ultimately helps reveal that the opioid issue is a multifaceted one. Because prescription drugs make any driver impaired and thus in less control over a vehicle, law enforcement fears that more drug-related accidents could occur in the future. The area in which high volumes of these wrecks take place is also around the University of Tennessee’s Knoxville campus, where students could become more open to the idea of trying dangerous drugs due to inexperience, peer pressure and a number of other factors. WBIR adds that in 2015 alone, an estimate of 174 people died when the driver tested positive for drugs, or when officers determined drugs influenced the driver. Experts claim that the most common drugs in these situations are opiates and benzodiazepines. 

While the influence of prescription drugs has made an incredibly negative impact on America’s drivers, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention remind Tennesseans that alcohol nonetheless plays a major role in motor vehicle accidents. Between 2003 and 2012, 3,423 people were killed by a drunk driver in the state, with about one in three deaths involving a drunk driver. Yet CDC also notes that Tennesseans, along with the rest of the country, are slow to admit to driving while under the influence: only 1.1 percent report driving after drinking too much.

Regardless of the cause, reports such as these show that substances — whether illegal or legal — play a major role in motor vehicle accidents across the state. And although this angle of the opioid epidemic is part of a much larger issue, it nevertheless opens up a concern in the state of Tennessee, an area already largely affected by the crisis.