Opioid Overdose Deaths Surpass Vehicle Crash Deaths For First Time

By Beth Leipholtz 01/16/19

According to a new report from the National Safety Council, Americans are more likely to die from an opioid overdoses than a car crash.

a person being helped after a vehicle crash

An opioid overdose is now a more likely cause of death than even vehicle crashes, according to a recent report

The report on preventable deaths from the National Safety Council found that Americans have a 1 in 96 chance of death due to an opioid overdose, based on 2017 accidental death data. 

“Drug poisoning is now the No. 1 cause of unintentional death in the United States,” the report reads. “Every day, more than 100 people die from opioid drugs –  37,814 people every year – and many of these overdoses are from prescription opioid medicine."

In comparison, NPR states, the chance of death in a motor vehicle crash is 1 in 103. 

"We've made significant strides in overall longevity in the United States, but we are dying from things typically called accidents at rates we haven't seen in half a century," Ken Kolosh, manager of statistics at the National Safety Council, said, according to PR Newswire. "We cannot be complacent about 466 lives lost every day. This new analysis reinforces that we must consistently prioritize safety at work, at home and on the road to prevent these dire outcomes.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the drug at the forefront of overdose deaths is now fentanyl, which the council addressed in a statement. 

"The nation's opioid crisis is fueling the Council's grim probabilities, and that crisis is worsening with an influx of illicit fentanyl,” the statement read

Causes of death such as motor vehicle crashes and overdoses are different from heart disease and cancer deaths in that they are considered “a preventable, unintentional injury” — a statistic that has increased in the last 15 years, according to NPR. Falls also top the list of preventable causes of death, at 1 in 114, compared to 1 in 119 a year ago. 

"It is impacting our workforce, it is impacting our fathers and mothers who are still raising their children," Kolosh said. 

He added that such deaths often impact people in the "core of their life.”

"As human beings, we're terrible at assessing our own risk," Kolosh said. "We typically focus on the unusual or scary events ... and assume that those are the riskiest.”

Though everyone will die at some point, Kolosh says, action can still be taken to prevent unnecessary deaths. 

"Your odds of dying are 1 in 1," Kolosh added. "But that doesn't mean we can't do something. If, as a society, we put the appropriate rules and regulations in place we can prevent all accidental deaths in the future."

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Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at www.lifetobecontinued.com, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.