Car crashes are no longer the leading cause of accidental deaths in the United States. Over the past two years, more Americans died by accidents caused by drug overdose.
A new report from the National Safety Council (NSC) revealed that drug overdose has now overtaken car crashes as the top cause of accidental deaths in the U.S. killing more than 42,000 people in 2014.
Opioid use is attributed as a primary cause of overdoses with the addictive painkiller causing 13,486 deaths in 2014.
Deaths due to accidental poisoning were not prevalent among adults until the early 1990s but incidents have since skyrocketed.
Figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that between the years 2000 and 2014, nearly half a million people died because of drug overdoses. Every day, 78 people in the U.S. die from opioid overdose.
"Opioids are being overprescribed. And it is not children reaching in medicine cabinets who have made drug poisoning the #1 cause of unintentional death in the United States," the NSC said on its site.
"Adults have been prescribed opioids by doctors and subsequently become addicted or move from pills to heroin."
A Los Angeles Times report suggested that the opioid problem that the U.S. currently faces could also be partly blamed on marketing strategies employed by producers of opioid drugs.
America's opioid epidemic has long been recognized but it is now on the spotlight after the death of Prince. Results of toxicology tests suggest that the singer died from accidental overdose of fentanyl, a powerful and potentially deadly opioid.
The prevalence of painkiller abuse has already prompted the Obama administration to take more aggressive steps to address the problem.
Compared with the increasing number of deaths from drug overdose, deaths due to vehicular accidents have declined.
In 2014, motor vehicle accidents killed 35,398, or 22 percent fewer compared with the figures a decade ago. The number is significantly down from a peak of more than 53,000 in 1980.
NSC statistics manager Ken Kolosh said that there are now far fewer teens and young adults who die on the road. Among the reasons for the decline in car accidents include the emergence of safer vehicles, changes in driver licensing requirements and improved safety technology in cars.
Kolosh, however, said that some behaviors that increase risks for vehicular accidents such as driving drunk, speeding and not wearing seat belts continue to persist and cause about 10,000 car fatalities per year.