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What’s the No. 1 Cause of Accidental Death?

“Accidents happen” is a common idiom most of us hear throughout our lives. But sometimes when “accidents happen” they result in death. Check the...

“Accidents happen” is a common idiom most of us hear throughout our lives. But sometimes when “accidents happen” they result in death. Check the latest death records and you will find that scores of deaths are unintentional or what is more commonly referred to as accidental. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of accidental deaths rose by 5.3 percent from 2016 to 2017. And with this increase, accidental deaths in one year have now reached their highest in recorded American history at 169,936 in 2017. 

The causes of death include poisoning (including drug overdose), drowning, suffocation, and motor vehicle accidents. The number one cause of accidental death is poisoning. For the three leading causes of death in the United States, unintentional death was the only one to increase. The rise in accidental deaths is largely contributed to America’s opioid crisis. 

The following is the top 10 causes of accidental death in the U.S. in 2017:

  1. Poisoning: 64,795
  2. Motor vehicle: 40,231
  3. Falls: 36,338
  4. Suffocation by ingestion or inhalation: 5,216
  5. Drowning: 3,709
  6. Fires, flames, and smoke: 2,812
  7. Mechanical suffocation: 1,730
  8. Natural heat or cold: 1,269
  9. Struck by or against: 806
  10. Machinery: 572

Poisoning, including drug overdose, rose by more than 11 percent from 2016 to 2017, indicating how dangerous the opioid crisis is becoming in the U.S. In the 1990s, pharmaceutical companies assured medical professionals that opioids are safe and patients will not become addicted. From this information, doctors began prescribing opioids at greater rates. The increase in prescriptions of opioids led to widespread misuse of the medications. The opioid epidemic was declared a public health emergency by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2017. An estimated more than 130 people died every day from opioid overdose in 2018. And 10.3 million people misused the drug during that year. 

Suffocation by inhalation or ingestion rose by 8 percent. Children are frequently the victims of these kinds of accidental deaths, which can often be prevented by keeping small objects away from children. If a child is injured or dies from suffocation or another preventable death, seek out a personal injury attorney for children for help in their case. Death from natural heat or cold rose by more than 6 percent. Climate change has created extreme weather temperatures around the world. A historic polar vortex swept over the Midwest and East Coast of the U.S. this past winter, with temperatures dropping to minus 28 degrees Fahrenheit in some areas. Extreme cold can increase the likelihood of hypothermia and frostbite and make heart and lung problems worse. And last July was the hottest month ever recorded in earth’s history, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Heatstroke or hyperthermia can lead to death during a heatwave.

Some accidental deaths decreased slightly from 2016 to 2017. These causes of unintentional death are motor vehicle accidents, drowning, mechanical suffocation, and machinery. Accidental death by machinery was the highest to fall, declining by more than 6 percent.

While death is the most severe consequence related to unintentional injuries, each year millions are seen by doctors for accidental injuries. In 2017, 39.5 million physician office visits for unintentional injuries occurred and 29.2 million emergency department visits related to accidental injuries occurred. 

The CDC statistics also revealed that life expectancy declined in 2017. This is the third year in a row that life expectancy declined or stayed the same. The last time in recorded American history for such a long period of decline was during the early 1900s when the flu and World War I were causing a decline. 



Staff Writer
Hometown: Seattle, Washington

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