Abstract The aim of this study was to find which drugs and drug combinations were most common in drivers who died, in particular, in single vehicle crashes where the responsibility for the crash would be referred to the driver killed. The study included all available blood samples from drivers, who died within 24 h of the accident, in the years 2001 and 2002 in the five Nordic countries (total population about 24 million inhabitants). The samples were analysed for more than 200 different drugs in addition to alcohol, using a similar analytical programme and cut-off limits in all countries. In three countries (Finland, Norway and Sweden) blood samples were available for more than 70% of the drivers, allowing representative prevalence data to be collected. 60% of the drivers in single vehicle crashes had alcohol and/or drug in their blood samples, compared with 30% of drivers killed in collisions with other vehicles. In single vehicle accidents, 66% of the drivers under 30 years of age had alcohol and/or drugs in their blood (alcohol only – 40%; drugs only – 12%; alcohol and drugs – 14%). The drugs found were mostly illicit drugs and psychoactive medicinal drugs with warning labels (in 57% and 58% respectively of the drivers under 30 with drugs present). Similar findings were obtained for drivers 30–49 years of age (63% with alcohol and/or drugs). In drivers aged 50 years and above, killed in single vehicle crashes (48% with alcohol and/or drugs) illicit drugs were found in only one case, and psychoactive medicinal drugs were detected less frequently than in younger age groups. In 75% of single vehicle crashes, the driver was under 50 years. Thus, the majority of accidents where the drivers must be considered responsible, occurred with drivers who had recently used alcohol, or drugs, alone or in combination. The drugs involved were often illicit and/or psychoactive drugs with warning labels. Therefore a large proportion of single vehicle accidents appear to be preventable, if more effective measures against driving after intake of alcohol and drugs can be implemented.