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A third of fatal drug crashes in Philadelphia linked to fentanyl


(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 6% of Philadelphia’s fatal crashes involved drugs from 2018-2021. The data, from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, showed that 2% of all traffic fatalities in the city were connected to fentanyl.

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

Drug use broadly was responsible for a significant number of fatal crashes.

“Among counties with a population of at least 500,000 people, 21% of fatal crashes in Bucks County involved drugs, as did 15% of those in Delaware and Chester counties and 12% 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 11 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 11-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 5-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 14 million people drove under the influence of alcohol in the past year and 12 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 10- and 20-year highs, respectively.