Opioids at the health and transportation safety nexus

The rate of opioid-related deaths is higher than that of road crashes (CNN 2017). The dual health challenges of opioids and car crashes have overlapping elements; opioid use contributes to car crashes and injuries from car crashes contribute to opioid use. There is a strong and immediate need to understand the prevalence of opioid prescription after a traffic-related crash, and how often that prescription leads to future negative outcomes. This research aims to understand data systems that can evaluate these relationships and develop a system map that will aid in understanding the extent of this dual problem. Ultimately, it will provide evidence to assist the medical and public health community in better understanding the impact of prescribing opioids for acute pain relief after a traffic crash, and for transportation professionals to help understand the systems impact of opioid use on traffic safety. This is the first phase of a two-phase study. In Phase 1, the research team will review opioid monitoring programs and data across states hardest hit by opioid addiction, investigate promise and barriers of data available to explore the relationship between opioids and crashes, develop a system map of data and causal feedback relationships between addiction, crashes, and prescription rates. Finally, the team will recommend a series of research directions and hypotheses that are enabled by such datasets and monitoring systems. The proposed research is exploratory and carries some risk (i.e., it may be technically or institutionally impossible to link datasets), thus the team are proposing a phased approach. This work also will follow up on efforts from the R4 (Complete Picture of Traffic Crashes) project. Specifically, this project has the goal of increasing understanding data opportunities to understand the role of opioids in traffic crashes and the role of crashes in opioid use. To achieve this goal, the team proposes four Objectives. Objective 1: Provide a scan of states with opioid monitoring programs that can be linked with crash and other datasets. Objective 2: The team will investigate linkage opportunities in at least two states, starting with Tennessee and Ohio. Objective 3: Develop a health system map on the linkage between opioids and traffic safety. Objective 4: Test linkage methods and preliminary analysis on at least one state’s data (e.g., Tennessee TITAN crash data with CSMD and other health data) to identify barriers and opportunities toward answering causal questions on opioids and crashes. Objective 5: Generate a list of research questions and hypotheses that could be feasibly be investigated with further analysis across different state systems. By learning from Objectives 1-4, the team will be able to identify the ability of research teams to use the data to test hypotheses on crashes and opioid use. Understanding linkage validity, feasibility, and overall sample size and longitudinal continuity will be among the areas explored. This project is exploratory. There are two main outcomes: 1) This project will generate a report that identifies a system map for the linkage of prescription opioid and traffic safety data. The second outcome 2) will be the generation of a set of research questions that will contribute to further investigation in phase 2 (and a Phase 2 proposal).


  • English


  • Status: Active
  • Funding: $77,670
  • Contract Numbers:


  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology

    University Transportation Centers Program
    Department of Transportation
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Managing Organizations:

    Collaborative Sciences Center for Road Safety

    University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
    Chapel Hill, NC  United States  27514
  • Project Managers:

    Sandt, Laura

  • Performing Organizations:

    University of Tennessee, Knoxville

    Center for Transportation Research
    Conference Center Building
    Knoxville, TN  United States  37996-4133

    University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

    Chapel Hill, NC  United States  27599
  • Principal Investigators:

    Cherry, Christopher

    Marshall, Stephen

    Naumann, Rebecca

  • Start Date: 20180701
  • Expected Completion Date: 20210331
  • Actual Completion Date: 0
  • USDOT Program: University Transportation Centers Program

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01667898
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Collaborative Sciences Center for Road Safety
  • Contract Numbers: 69A3551747113
  • Files: UTC, RIP
  • Created Date: Apr 30 2018 2:39PM