It's a story that's becoming all too familiar on the Southcoast - people overdosing on heroin and powerful painkillers while driving.

Within the past few months, police departments across the region have reported accidents and other cases where the driver of a vehicle was found unresponsive with drug paraphernalia in the passenger seat next to them.

Coverage of Overdoses Behind The Wheel in 2016:

New Bedford Police Detective Captain Steven Vicente has some insight as to why these incidents are on the rise. Vicente tells WBSM News in many cases the drugs are purchased in parking lots or other meeting spaces as part of their daily commute. "In all probability, they're not waiting to get home. They're injecting or doing the drugs and it's kicking in, so to speak, as they're driving," says Vicente.

Behind the wheel overdoses pose obvious safety risks to the public. Vicente says in several cases, this dangerous behavior has resulted in accidents. "The person is overdosing, so they're becoming unconscious and they've lost complete control of the vehicle they're driving. The vehicle has to come to a stop somehow, either hitting a parked car or a fence. Something's got to stop the momentum."

There have been several reports in New Bedford during the past few months of unconscious drivers hitting parked vehicles.

In Fairhaven, Police Sgt. Kevin Kobza says there have been a total of seven overdoses in vehicles reported by police since the beginning of the year. Out of the seven overdoses, three were operators, with two incidents resulting in motor vehicle crashes.

Vicente says there are no shortage of recovery programs for addicts, but they have to want help before receiving it.

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