The Presence of Alcohol and/or Drugs in Fatal Motor Vehicle Crashes on Public Roads

Crashes involving alcohol and/or drugs are a leading criminal cause of death in Canada. On average, approximately 4 people are killed each day in crashes involving alcohol and/or drugs. In 2013, there were a total of 2,430 crash deaths on public roads, involving at least one highway vehicle (e.g. passenger cars, vans, trucks, or motorcycles). Based on testing of fatally-injured drivers, it may be estimated that 1,451 (59.7%) of these deaths involved drivers who had some alcohol and/or drugs in their system.

  • 369 deaths, or 15.2%, occurred in crashes involving drivers who were positive for alcohol alone.
  • 683 deaths, or 28.1%, occurred in crashes involving drivers who were positive for drugs alone.
  • 399 deaths, or 16.4%, occurred in crashes involving drivers who were positive for both alcohol and drugs.

The statistics reflect the growing incidence of driving after drug use, which now exceeds that for driving after alcohol use. Cannabis, the most commonly-found drug, is present in almost half of the drug-positive fatal crashes.

It must be emphasized that the figures document the presence of alcohol and/or drugs and not whether the driver was legally impaired. While research indicates that most of the alcohol-positive drivers were likely impaired or very impaired, there is no comparable information on the drug-positive drivers.

It should also be noted that these figures do not include total, or alcohol and/or drug-related, fatalities, occurring in crashes off of a public road. Nor do the figures include crash deaths involving only ATVs, snowmobiles, farm tractors, and other non-highway vehicles.

For more information, including provincial and territorial breakdowns of the above statistics and information on the data sources, please see:

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