Safety and OSHA News

Accidental injuries are No. 3 cause of death for first time: Opioids, vehicles to blame

Unintentional, preventable injuries (aka accidental injuries) are now the No. 3 cause of death in the U.S., according to the National Safety Council. 

This is the first time in history accidental deaths were the third-leading cause of death, behind only heart disease and cancer.

Accidental injuries claimed a record high 161,374 lives in 2016. One American is accidentally injured every second and killed every three minutes by a preventable event, according to the NSC.

In 2016, 14,803 more people died accidentally than in 2015, a 10% increase. It’s the largest percentage increase since 1936. Accidental deaths have increased 18.6% in the last two years.

The NSC says the unprecedented increase is fueled by the opioid crisis, with unintentional opioid overdose deaths totaling 37,814 in 2016 from drugs including prescription opioid pain relievers, heroin and illicitly made fentanyl.

Motor vehicle deaths rose 6.8% in 2016 to 40,327 – with a two-year increase of 14% which is the largest jump in 53 years.

“Our complacency results in 442 deaths each day,” said Deborah Hersman, CEO of the NSC. “There is no such thing as an accident. Every single one of these deaths was preventable … we have failed to prioritize safety at work, at home and on the road.”

Preventable deaths have been rising since 2009 after years of declines and plateaus.

The current accidental death rate of 47.2 per 100,000 population is 39% higher than the lowest recorded rate, 34.0 in 1992.

Out of six categories tracked by NSC, only one saw a decline: choking deaths. The number of accidental deaths increased for poisoning, motor vehicle, falls, drowning, and fire/flames/smoke.

Preventable deaths decreased in just six states in 2016: Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Utah and Wyoming. The other 44 states and District of Columbia all had increases. Washington, DC, had the largest increase, followed by Maryland and New Jersey.

Just 12 states plus Washington, DC, had decreases in motor vehicle deaths. Alaska had the largest percentage increase in motor vehicle deaths.

The NSC has launched initiatives to educate Americans about how they can reduce their own risks:

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