FACT CHECK: Do More Americans Die From Drug Overdoses Than Car Accidents?

Aryssa Damron | Fact Check Reporter

CNN’s Jim Sciutto claimed Tuesday that deaths from drug overdoses now surpass the number of deaths from car accidents.

Verdict: True

More than 70,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2017, while about 37,000 people died from motor vehicle accidents, 64 percent of which were passenger vehicle occupants. Drug overdose deaths have outnumbered motor vehicle accident deaths since 2009.

Fact Check:

Sciutto made the claim while discussing immigration with White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. President Donald Trump has argued that $5.7 billion for a border wall would stem the flow of drugs across the Southwest border.

“I work on the drug crisis every single day,” Conway told Sciutto.”If you can mitigate the amount of drugs coming into this country, yes through ports of entry, but also coming not through the ports of entry, that would be a huge boon to this country that witnessed 72,000 deaths last year alone.”

“Now surpassing car accident deaths,” Sciutto added.

While Conway’s estimate is slightly higher than the latest figures reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Sciutto is correct that drug overdose deaths outnumber car accident deaths, though it is not a new phenomenon.

The Department of Transportation tracks the number of motor vehicle accidents every year, breaking them down by the types of victims, including passenger vehicle occupants, motorcyclists, bicyclists, large truck occupants and pedestrians.

Motor vehicle fatalities have hovered between 30,000 and 40,000 deaths per year for the past decade, with 37,133 deaths in 2017, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). “Contributing to the death toll are alcohol, speeding, lack of safety belt use and other problematic driver behaviors,” reads the IIHS website.

In 2017, 23,708 motor vehicle deaths were passenger vehicle occupants, while about 6,000 were pedestrians.

Over the last decade, drug overdose deaths have nearly doubled. The CDC reported that there were 36,450 overdose deaths in 2008 and a record 70,237 in 2017, the most recent year for which data is available. Opioids alone killed 47,600 people in 2017, while heroin killed 15,482.

The number of drug overdose deaths per year has not declined once since 1999, when 16,849 people died from overdoses. At the same time, it has generally become safer to drive on the road. There were 11.4 motor vehicle deaths per 100,000 people in 2017, compared to 15.3 in 1999 and 20.6 in 1975.

Drug poisonings outnumbered firearm-related deaths, suicides and homicides in 2016, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

A new report from the National Safety Council found that Americans are more likely to die from an accidental opioid overdose than a motor vehicle accident.

Have a fact check suggestion? Send ideas to [email protected].

Aryssa Damron

Fact Check Reporter