For the first time in the U.S., the odds of dying in a motor vehicle crash (one in 103) have been surpassed by the chance of dying accidentally from an opioid overdose, which have risen to one in 96, according to new data from the National Safety Council.
Motor vehicle collisions are now the second leading cause of accidental death followed by falls, where the odds are one in 114.
While about 40,000 people lost their lives in crashes in 2017, deaths due to motor vehicle accidents held steady as compared to 2016, with a change of less than 0.5%.
Historically, motor vehicle accidents have driven up fatality rates. From 1961-1973, total accidental deaths increased by 26% and death rates climbed by 9%. These increases were largely due to surges in motor vehicle deaths (46%) and death rates (26%).
The trend reversed between 1973 and 1992, when preventable deaths decreased 33% and death rates declined 38%. In 1992, the U.S. achieved the lowest recorded death rate of 34 deaths per capita (100,000 people). Motor vehicle deaths decreased 35%.
Overall, 2017 saw a record high number of preventable deaths — 169,936 as compared to 161,374 in 2016. That's the highest death rate since 1973 — specifically, 52.2 deaths per 100,000 people.