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Accidental death rate rising, could soon pass all-time high (6/8)

June 8, 2007
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A new study says there's been an upturn in the nation's accidental death rate.

According to data released Thursday as part of National Safety Month, the National Safety Council says that over a ten-year period, accidental deaths are up more than 20 percent, reaching 113,000 deaths in 2005.

At the current rate, the NSC warns, the nation’s all-time high of 116,385 accidental deaths, set in 1969, could be surpassed in the next few years.

For people between 1 and 41 years of age, accidents are the leading cause of death in the nation and continue to be the fifth leading cause of death overall. Exceeded only by heart disease, cancer, stroke and chronic lower respiratory diseases, accidental deaths are increasing at a greater rate than that of any of the top four causes of death.

Motor vehicle crashes continue to be the leading cause of injury-related death in the country, according to NSC. However, the death rate for motor vehicle collisions is down 16 percent.

Poisoning — particularly from overdoses of over-the-counter, prescription and illicit drugs — is now the fastest-rising cause of accidental death with a 5 percent increase last year alone.

Deaths from falls rank third, choking fourth, and drowning fifth. These five leading causes account for 83 percent of all accidental deaths.

From 1969 until 1992, the rate of accidental deaths — a number adjusted for population growth — steadily declined. The council credited seat belts and air bags in vehicles, smoke detectors in homes and stiff drunken driving laws with reducing deaths.

But ground is being lost because of increasing rates of falls among the elderly and accidental overdoses from legal and illegal drugs, says Alan McMillan, CEO of the National Safety Council.

Older motorcycle operators also add to the death toll, McMillan says.

While there has been a shift toward more accidental injuries and deaths occurring in and around the home, this has not been the case in the workplace. Since 1992, the death rate from injuries in home and community settings increased 30 percent. Conversely, over the same period of time, the death rate for workplace injuries has declined 17 percent.

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

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