(The Center Square) — As fentanyl-connected overdoses kill thousands of Pennsylvanians every year, the opioid shows up in traffic-crash data, too.

A study from Jerry, a car insurance app, found that six percent of Philadelphia’s fatal crashes involved drugs from 2018-2021. The data, from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, showed that two percent of all traffic fatalities in the city were connected to fentanyl.

That’s the highest rate of all cities in the commonwealth; 32 percent of all drug-related traffic fatalities were connected to fentanyl.

“Among counties with a population of at least 500,000 people, 21 percent of fatal crashes in Bucks County involved drugs, as did fifteen percent of those in Delaware and Chester counties and twelve percent of those in Lancaster County,” the Jerry study noted.

Drug-related traffic deaths mainly followed population trends, with the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh metro areas having the highest concentration of drug-related traffic fatalities.

In June 2022, a woman in a Montgomery County collision killed a 77-year-old woman; the driver was on fentanyl and had eleven bags of it in her car. 

Fentanyl has been a factor in non-fatal crashes as well. In 2019, a woman in Lancaster County was sentenced to up to a decade in prison for a two-car crash that injured a woman and her eleven-year-old daughter. In July, a one-car crash in Allegheny County was caused by a man on a handful of drugs who had his five-year-old son in the backseat.

One study found that drivers found at fault for two-car collisions were more than twice as likely to test positive for opioids as those who were not at fault.

Nationally, driving under the influence remains a significant problem. A 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that fourteen million people drove under the influence of alcohol in the past year and twelve million drove under the influence of illicit drugs.

Traffic deaths in Pennsylvania have declined last year after increasing for years. Crashes are also on the decline, though distracted driving deaths and pedestrian deaths have gone up, hitting ten- and twenty-year highs, respectively.

Anthony Hennen is a reporter for The Center Square. Previously, he worked for Philadelphia Weekly and the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal. He is the managing editor of Expatalachians, a journalism project focused on the Appalachian region.

This article was republished with permission from The Center Square.

One thought on “A third of fatal drug-related car crashes in Philadelphia are linked to fentanyl”

  1. The headline and the body of this article confused me. Are they saying 94% of Philadelphia’s fatal crashes did NOT involve drugs from 2018-2021 and ONLY 6% of traffic fatalities DID involve drugs? And of those 1/3 (or 2% of all traffic fatalities) were connected to fentanyl? Clicking the hyper-links further confused me because it is 2024, yet your source of “one study” in the hyper-link leads to a 2019 NBC article that ends with: …Dr. Ajay Wasan, who wasn’t involved in the study, questioned its focus on any use of prescription opioids among drivers involved in crashes, describing it as “very misleading, since this is really abuse, not use.” “…these kinds of accidents, especially those where people drifted out of their lanes, are most likely due to opioid abuse,” said Wasan, an anesthesiology professor at the University of Pittsburgh and president elect of the American Academy of Pain Medicine. Moreover, Wasan expects that the number of accidents involving people taking prescription opioids will turn out to have gone down in more recent years because of the decline in the number of prescriptions written for opioids. This sensationalizes an issue when there is a need for better science and clarity,” Wasan said. Again, that was in 2019.

Leave a (Respectful) Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *