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Accidental Death’s on the Rise in America

Deaths resulting from accidents are becoming increasingly more prevalent.  According to a report from the National Safety Council, there were more than 136,000 accidental deaths of Americans in 2014.   This is up 4.2 percent from 2013 and up 15.5 percent over the past ten years.  The rate of accidents has risen even though there has been a 22 percent decrease in automobile related deaths since 2005.  Most shockingly, overdose and accidental poisonings are up 78 percent over the past ten years, killing 42,032 in 2014.  Falls are also up 63 percent over that last decade, but experts attribute this to an aging society.  The element of these statistics that is difficult to grapple with is that these are all deaths caused by accidents; accidents by their very definition are preventable.  Ken Kolosh, statistical manager of the National Safety Council notes that these increases in accidental deaths are not due to people becoming more prone to accidents, but rather due to society not implementing enough preventative measures.  Statistics show that an American dies of an accidental injury every four minutes, and one American needs medical help as a result of an accident every second.  The region in which you live also can drastically affect the rate of accidental deaths.  Maryland, California, and New York have the lowest rates, 30 per 100,000 people, while West Virginia has the highest rate, 75.2 per 100,000.  The national average is 41.3 accidental deaths per 100,000 people.  Drug abuse is rapidly becoming more deadly while accidents like car crashes have become less deadly.  In 1999, overdoses, poisonings, and falls only accounted for 25 percent of accidental deaths but now account for over half of them.  In the annual Injury Facts report, the top three causes of American deaths continue to be diseases: heart disease, cancer, and lower respiratory diseases.  However, unintentional deaths come in at the fourth spot, beating out stroke, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, flu and suicide.  People often worry about murder as a real hazard in America.  Yet, there are eight accidental deaths for every homicide and twice as many suicides as murders.

There may be several moving gears that explain accidents as a cause of death moving up to the fourth spot.  The U.S. has made great strides in preventing and treating diseases, causing deaths as a result to decrease.  That being said, the U.S. has not been as proactive about preventing accidental deaths, causing these to rise.  The Injury Facts report also shows data how far the country has come in reducing motor vehicle deaths.  In 2014, these deaths were at 35,398 annually, down from a high of over 53,000 in 1980.  It’s clear that far less young people are dying on the road than before, but U.S. numbers are still higher than those of other developed countries.  Kolosh attributes this to our relatively loose drunk driving regulations and other laws when compared to other comparable countries. 

These accidents are not only overdoses, though.  The safety council report includes toilet accidents, which sent 112,412 people to the emergency room in 2014 alone!  This is more than saws, hammers, and swimming pools.  This is a case in point that anything can cause an injury, not just things we, as a society, label “dangerous.”  Although we will never eradicate accidental deaths completely, we can take steps to prevent such accidents from causing so many deaths.