Safety and OSHA News

Top 10 states with lowest and highest unintentional death rates

As part of National Safety Month, the National Safety Council has announced its annual list of states with the lowest and highest rates of unintentional injury deaths. 

The state with the lowest rate is Maryland with 26.9 deaths per every 100,000 people. Maryland has been at the top of the list for two years.

West Virginia has the highest rate at 77.2 – significantly above the national rate of 40.6. West Virginia has had the highest rate for three of the last four years. The state’s high death rate is largely fueled by overdoses from opioid prescription painkillers.

Unintentional injury deaths include poisonings (largely from drug overdoses), car crashes, falls and choking.

Deaths from unintentional injury are the fourth leading cause of deaths in the U.S., in front of No. 5 cause, strokes.

Here are the top 10 states with the lowest rates:

  1. Maryland (26.9)
  2. New York (28.4)
  3. California (28.7)
  4. District of Columbia (29.9)
  5. New Jersey (30.4)
  6. Illinois (32.4)
  7. Massachusetts (33.7)
  8. Virginia (34.7)
  9. Texas (36.7), and
  10. Nebraska (36.8)

And the top 10 states with the highest rates are:

  1. West Virginia (77.2)
  2. New Mexico (64.3)
  3. Montana (61.0)
  4. Oklahoma (59.7)
  5. Kentucky (59.7)
  6. Mississippi (57.9)
  7. Wyoming (55.9)
  8. Alabama (55.4)
  9. Tennessee (54.5), and
  10. Alaska (53.2)

“Someone dies every four minutes in the United States due to an unintentional injury,” said Deborah Hersman, president of the NSC. “The top states are the best-in-class at addressing these preventable deaths, but they’ve also created a blueprint so other states may address the issues that threaten longevity.”

What are some states doing to reduce their death rates? Some have strengthened their Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs to track opioid painkiller prescribing. Others have passed stronger laws regarding teen and distracted driving.

The top cause of unintentional injury death varies depending on age group:

  • Car crashes are the No. 1 cause of death from ages 5 to 24
  • Poisonings, largely from opioid painkillers, are the largest cause of most working adults, 25-64, and
  • For ages 65 and older, falls is the No. 1 cause.

The analysis for this list was done by the NSC from 2011 data from the National Center for Health Statistics.

A side note: If you didn’t see Time magazine’s cover story on America’s opioid addiction problem, it’s well worth reading.

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