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The Top Four Causes of Accidental
Death After Auto Accidents

Every five minutes, someone in the United States is killed by an accident, according to new research from The National Safety Council (NSC). Overall, accidents are the fifth leading cause of death, behind only heart disease, cancer, stroke and chronic lower respiratory diseases.

prescription drugs

Increasing numbers of people are dying from accidental overdoses on prescription, over-the-counter, and illegal drugs.

Yet, for people between the ages of 1 and 41, accidental deaths are the leading cause of death in the nation, and they're increasing at a greater rate than any of the other top causes of death.

In just one 10-year period, accidental deaths increased over 20 percent, to more than 113,000 deaths in 2005, NSC found. At this rate, the all-time record for accidental deaths, set in 1969 with 116,385, will be surpassed within a few years.

"Accidental death in America is a silent epidemic. With one person dying from an accident every five minutes, unintentional injury is one of the most serious public health issues facing the country," said NSC President and CEO Alan McMillan.

"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," McMillan said. "The reality is that while we are at greater risk of experiencing an accidental injury, we have greater control over managing those risks."

The obvious top cause of accidental deaths goes to automobile accidents, with speeding, driver distractions and impairments, and not wearing seatbelts among the top causes of motor vehicle injuries and fatalities.

What are the next leading causes of accidental deaths?

1. Poisoning (Mostly from Drug Overdoses)

Deaths from poisoning, and specifically from overdoses of over-the-counter (OTC), prescription and illegal drugs, is the fastest rising cause of accidental deaths. It rose 5 percent overall from 2006 to 2007, and increased more than 300 percent among white women in the last decade.

You can protect your children from poisoning by making sure these 10 common toxins are not in their reach. Using a secure lock for your kitchen cabinets and medicine cabinet is another simple way to keep your kids safe.

Meanwhile, avoid overdosing on OTC drugs by:

  • Making sure you don't exceed the maximum daily recommended amount

  • Reading the labels on all the drugs you are taking to be sure you're not doubling, or tripling, up on common drugs such as acetaminophen

  • Following dosage information for children carefully, as overdose can occur quickly

2. Falls

Deaths from falls rose from 16,257 in 2002 to 17,229 in 2003, which is the most recent data available. Overall, the fall death rate rose from 5.6 to 5.9 deaths per 100,000 people.

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What can you do to prevent falls in your home (which is especially important if you live with an elderly person, as falls among those over 65 rose 31 percent from 1999 to 2003):

  • Pick up clutter from walkways.

  • Remove tripping hazards like throw rugs and extension cords.

  • Block off stairways, windows or other dangerous areas using The Gateway® To Go. This is no ordinary gate: It uses a patented, pressure mount system rated #1 by a leading consumer reporting organization to keep infants, the elderly or pets safely away from accident-prone areas.

  • Put non-slip mats in your bathtub and on shower floors.

  • Tack carpet corners and edges securely to the floor.

  • Wipe up any spills immediately (wet surfaces are slippery!)

  • Install handrails on both sides of your stairways, and grab bars next to your toilet and in your bathtub/shower.

  • Use corner guards to prevent serious head traumas that can occur from falling against sharp corners of furniture. You can get a 4-pack of Super Soft Gel Corner Protectors for just $2.99, and they're simple to install.

  • Make sure you have adequate lighting throughout your home, especially at night.

  • Use a cane or walker if you have trouble walking or balancing.

3. Choking

infant safety bathtub

NSC reminds parents to never leave children unattended around water, as drownings can happen in a pool, bathtub, bucket, hot tub or even a toilet.

Choking is a common cause of accidental death among infants under 1 year old. To protect infants from choking:

  • Avoid all foods that could get stuck in your child's throat, such as popcorn, grapes, raisins, nuts, hard candies, nuts, cut-up hotdogs, etc.

  • Never let a child of any age eat or suck on anything while lying down.

  • Keep floors, tables and cabinet tops free from small objects that could be swallowed (such as rings, small batteries, coins, nails, deflated balloons, etc.).

Also, if you have children who are in middle school, be sure they are not taking part in the now trendy, and potentially deadly, choking game.

4. Drowning

Close to 3,000 people die from drowning every year, with children 4 years old and younger at the highest risk. Most drownings involving children happen when a child is left alone in a bathtub or falls into a pool.

To prevent drowning inside your home and elsewhere, NSC recommends:

  • Never leaving a child alone near water: on the beach, at a pool, or in the bathtub.

  • Recognizing that kids don't drown only in pools. Bathtubs, buckets, toilets, and hot tubs present drowning dangers as well.

  • Enrolling children over age 3 in swimming lessons taught by qualified instructors.

  • Always following posted safety precautions when visiting water parks.

  • Keeping an eye on your kids in public pools, as lifeguards aren't babysitters.

  • Always swimming with a buddy.

  • Not diving into unknown bodies of water. Jump feet first to avoid hitting your head on a shallow bottom.

  • Never consuming alcohol when operating a boat.

  • Always using approved personal flotation devices (life jackets).

  • Not underestimating the power of water. Even rivers and lakes can have undertows.

  • Always having a first-aid kit and emergency phone contacts handy.

  • Parents be trained in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).

Related Articles

The Top 6 Accidents-Waiting-to-Happen in Your Home

30,000 Finger Amputations Yearly: The Most Common Finger-Loss Accidents and How to Avoid Them


National Safety Council Water Safety


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