Close this search box.

TIRF’s new fatal crash fact sheets highlight opportunities when using a data-driven approach to combat distracted and drug-impaired driving

Distracted driving key findings:

  • The percentage of fatalities that were distraction-related increased to 28.8% in 2021 from 19.1% in 2000.
  • Both drivers aged 16-19 and those 65 and older in fatal crashes had higher rates of distraction than all other age groups.
  • Fatally injured drivers of commercial vehicles, particularly those operating heavy trucks and tractor-trailers, were more often distracted than fatally injured automobile drivers or motorcyclists.

 Drug-impaired driving key findings:

  • There was little difference between fatally injured males and females testing positive for drugs.
  • A larger percentage of fatally injured drivers aged 20-34 tested positive for drugs than those aged 16-19 and 65 and older.
  • Drug-related fatal collisions were more common during nighttime hours and in vehicles with single occupants.

Ottawa, ON May 8, 2024 – The Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) has released two new fact sheets, Distraction-Related Fatal Collisions, 2000-2021 and Drug Use in Fatal Collisions, 2000-2021, made possible by sponsorship from Desjardins Insurance. Key findings from TIRF’s National Fatality Database underscore the critical need for continued efforts to address these priority road safety issues.

“While the number of distracted driving-related fatalities has decreased over the years, the percentage of all fatalities attributed to distraction has increased,” says Steve Brown, TIRF Research Associate & Data Collection. “The data also highlight a concerning trend in drug-related road deaths, with a significant increase in the number of fatalities in crashes where at least one driver tested positive for drugs.”

Data revealed the percentage of fatalities that were distraction-related increased to 28.8% in 2021 from 19.1% in 2000. In addition, fatally injured drivers between 16-19 years old (20.6%) as well as those who were 65 and older (20.4%) were the most likely to have been distracted. During this same timeframe, fatally injured drivers of commercial vehicles (heavy trucks and tractor-trailers) were almost twice as likely to have been distracted as motorcyclists (25.6% vs. 13.1%) as well as considerably more so than drivers of automobiles (16.5%) and light trucks (17.5%).

In all crashes where at least one driver was distracted, there were 359 fatalities in 2021, down from 458 in 2000. However, the percentage of road fatalities that were distraction-related rose to 28.8% in 2021 compared to 19.1% in 2000. In other words, progress reducing distracted driving has been slower than progress reducing other road safety risks. There has been a general upward trend in this percentage since 2000 which underscores the necessity of targeted interventions to address this growing concern.

In all crashes where at least one driver tested positive for drugs, there were 496 fatalities in 2021, up from 230 in 2000. In addition, during this same period, the percentage of all drug-related traffic fatalities increased to 37% from 10.7%. Equally concerning, since 2013, there has been a larger percentage of collisions involving a drug-impaired driver than those involving alcohol, distraction, or other factors. Of note, the largest percentage of positive drug tests was among drivers aged 20-34 (61.1%), indicating a need for targeted education and enforcement efforts among this group of drivers.

The percentage of drug-related fatalities in crashes was smaller among vehicles carrying multiple occupants than those with a sole occupant. This may suggest that perhaps drivers carrying passengers felt a greater sense of responsibility for their safety. This contrasts with the role of distraction since there appears to be a greater percentage of distraction-related fatalities in crashes involving vehicles carrying multiple occupants.

“Understanding the nuances of distracted and drug-impaired driving can help tailor enforcement activities and education initiatives to more effectively reach target audiences,” says Ward Vanlaar, TIRF COO. “General messages may be falling on deaf ears, particularly if people don’t recognize they are distracted nor believe they are impaired. In addition, efforts to educate passengers about the dangers of riding with distracted or impaired drivers need greater emphasis and reinforcement.”

By leveraging data from TIRF’s National Fatality Database, policymakers, licencing authorities, law enforcement agencies, and community stakeholders can develop evidence-based strategies to address these pressing road safety challenges.

Download the fact sheets:

Fatality Database Disclaimer

Data from TIRF’s National Fatality Database may be subject to change as the closure of cases is ongoing. As such, there may be minor differences in this document compared to previous documents reporting on the same topic.

About TIRF Canada:

The vision of the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) is to ensure people using roads make it home safely every day by eliminating road deaths, serious injuries and their social costs. TIRF’s mission is to be the knowledge source for safe road users and a world leader in research, program and policy development, evaluation, and knowledge transfer. TIRF is a registered charity and depends on grants, awards, and donations to provide services for the public. Visit or find all TIRF websites and social media at

– 30 –

For more information, contact:

Karen Bowman
Director, Communications & Programs
Traffic Injury Research Foundation
613 238-5235 (office) | 1 877 238-5235 (toll-free) |

David Bird

Related Downloads

TIRF’s research & educational tools support the work of communities across Canada.

Your donations & our work enable them to spend less time looking for answers & more time developing & implementing road safety strategies.