Alcohol and/or Drugs Among Crash Victims

Crashes involving alcohol and/or drugs are a leading criminal cause of death in Canada. Every day, on average, nearly 3.5 Canadians are killed in alcohol and/or drug-related motor vehicle crashes on public roads involving at least one “principal highway vehicle” (i.e. passenger cars, vans, trucks, and motorcycles).

In 2014, road crashes claimed an estimated 2,297 lives. Based on testing of fatally-injured drivers, it may be estimated that 1,273 (55.4%) of these deaths resulted from crashes in which an individual was positive for alcohol and/or drugs.

  • 299 deaths, or 13%, occurred in crashes involving individuals who were positive for alcohol alone.
  • 618 deaths, or 26.9%, occurred in crashes involving individuals who were positive for drugs alone.
  • 356 deaths, or 15.5%, occurred in crashes involving individuals who were positive for both alcohol and drugs.

The fact that the number of fatalities involving drugs alone is double those involving alcohol alone reflects the growing incidence of driving after drug 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 individual was legally impaired. While research indicates that most of the alcohol-positive individuals were likely impaired or very impaired, there is no comparable information on the drug-positive drivers. However, it should be noted that the drug tests are designed to detect the recent use of psychoactive drugs that adversely affect driving skills, rather than metabolites that merely indicate use of the drug sometime in the past.

The preceding figures are very conservative, in that they do not include all alcohol and/or drug-related motor vehicle crashes or, for that matter, all transportation crashes. For example, the figures do not include crashes on private property, Crown land, a military base, or a road administered by a First Nation, or anyone dying in a crash involving only a snowmobile, ATV, farm vehicle, or dirt bike. In 2012, the last year for which there are off-road crash data, an estimated 203 Canadians were killed in off-road crashes (exclusive of British Columbia), of which 106 were alcohol-related. Nor do these figures include alcohol and/or drug-related crash deaths involving boats, industrial equipment, railroads, or airplanes.

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

Additional Statistics: