The opioid crisis has evolved so rapidly that it can be hard to wrap your head around just how deadly these drugs have become. But 2017 data puts the public health epidemic into perspective: The National Safety Council estimates that opioids are more likely to kill the average American than a car crash is.
It’s the first time in the history of the NSC’s risk analysis that this has happened. Car crash rates have generally gone down over the decades, and as opioid overdoses have skyrocketed, the two were likely to cross over at some point. But it may still be surprising to learn that prescription pills are more dangerous than speeding along at 50 miles per hour in a two-ton metal box. As Ken Kolosh, manager of statistics at the NSC told NPR, “As human beings, we’re terrible at assessing our own risk. We typically focus on the unusual or scary events … and assume that those are the riskiest.”
It may feel more natural to worry about dying in a fire or a plane crash, but much less dramatic incidents are far more likely to kill us. The NSC highlighted some of these by analyzing the lifetime odds of dying from various causes, which we’ve turned into visuals to help you grasp just how unlikely—or just how likely!—some of them are.