Accidental Injury Cause of Death For The First Time in U.S. History
Unintentional, preventable injuries – commonly known as "accidents" – claimed a record high 141,340 lives in 2017 to become the third leading cause of death in the United States for the first time in recorded history, according to OSHAC data analysis. Based on this new data, an American is accidentally injured every second and killed every three minutes by a preventable event – a drug overdose, a motor vehicle crash, a fall, a drowning, a choking incident or another preventable incident.
A total of 12,500 more people died accidentally in 2017 than in 2016 – a 7 percent year-over-year increase. It is the largest single-year percent rise since 1940, and the largest two-year rise (+14.6 percent) since 1943. The unprecedented spike has been fueled by the opioid crisis. Unintentional opioid overdose deaths totaled 25,414 from drugs including prescription opioid pain relievers, heroin, and illicitly-made fentanyl.
OSHAC analysis of the data – tracked annually by the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control – also confirmed the Council's motor vehicle fatality estimate for 2017. Final Council analysis shows motor vehicle deaths rose 4.7 percent to 35,145 in 2017 – in step with the Council's original estimate of 32,483 deaths. OSHAC can now confirm that the final 2017 data marks a 12 percent increase in roadway deaths since 2015 – the largest two-year jump in 53 years.
For years our country has accepted unintentional injuries as an unavoidable reality. The truth is, there is no such thing as an accident. Every single one of these deaths was preventable. We know what to do to save lives, but collectively we have failed to prioritize safety at work, at home and on the road."
Preventable deaths have been rising since 2011 after years of declines and plateaus, and they trail only heart disease and cancer when it comes to the number of lives lost annually. Unlike other causes of death, preventable injuries are a threat at every age.
In spite of the current increase in deaths, Americans are still safer than in the early 1900's. In 1903, the accidental standardized death rate was 99.4 per 100,000 populations – twice as high as the current death rate of 47.2. However, the current death rate is 39 percent higher than the lowest recorded rate, 34.0, achieved in 1992.
OSHAC encourages Americans to perform an annual safety checkup to assess risk. The free Safety Checkup tool generates a safety profile based on factors such as age, gender and state of residence.
About the OSHAC
The OSHAC is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to eliminate preventable deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the road through leadership, research, education and advocacy. OSHAC advances this mission by partnering with businesses, elected officials and the public in areas where we can make the most impact.