Here’s a scary fact: Every five minutes, a person dies from an accident. The National Safety Council calls accidental deaths “a silent epidemic,” rising at an alarming rate -- more than 20 percent over 10 years -- reaching 113,000 fatalities in 2005, the latest data available.
According to a recent safety council study, accidental deaths are the fifth leading cause of death but the number of accidental fatalities is rising at a faster rate than the top four causes of death: heart disease, cancer, stroke and chronic lower respiratory disease. Accidental deaths reached an all-time high of 116,385 in 1969. At the current rate of increase, annual fatalities could surpass that record in just a few years, the safety council says.
Driving the increase is the aging population, which translates into more falls and more medication, leading to accidental overdoses, the council says. The safety council also pins some of the blame on new technology that distracts drivers. Motor vehicle crashes continue to be the leading cause of injury-related deaths, although they have dropped significantly from the record high of 56,278 in 1982 to 42,642 in 2006.
The second leading cause of accidental death is poisoning, particularly from overdoses of over-the-counter, prescription and illicit drugs. In fact, poisoning is the fastest-rising cause of accidental death, with a 5 percent increase in 2005 alone. Deaths from falls rank third, with choking and drowning rounding out the top five. These five leading causes account for 83 percent of all accidental deaths. But while drowning was the fifth-leading cause nationally, many states ranked fire as the fifth-leading cause of accidental death.
There is some good news from the safety council’s report. The death rate from workplace injuries has dropped by 17 percent since 1992. On the other hand, the death rate from injuries incurred at home and in community settings has increased by 30 percent for that same time period.
Accidents also accounted for more than 24 million nonfatal injuries in 2005. The economic cost of all fatal and nonfatal injuries amounted to $625.5 billion nationally, or $5,500 per household. “Our research shows that when it comes to safety, most Americans are more concerned about being the victim of a random act of violence than they are about being seriously injured in an accident,” said NSC President and CEO Alan McMillan. “The reality is that while we are at greater risk of experiencing an accidental injury, we have greater control over managing those risks.”
It goes without saying—be careful.
For a state-by-state accident report visit the National Safety Council site.