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Safe Communities America

Accidental Injury Becomes #3 Cause of Death For The First Time in U.S. History

National Safety Council analysis confirms preventable deaths rose 10% in 2016; drug overdose and motor vehicle crashes drove the increase

Unintentional, preventable injuries – commonly known as “accidents” – claimed a record high 161,374 lives in 2016 to become the third leading cause of death in the United States for the first time in recorded history, according to National Safety Council 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 14,803 more people died accidentally in 2016 than in 2015 – a 10 percent year-over-year increase. It is the largest single-year percent rise since 1936, and the largest two-year rise (+18.6 percent) since 1903. The unprecedented spike has been fueled by the opioid crisis. Unintentional opioid overdose deaths totaled 37,814 from drugs including prescription opioid pain relievers, heroin, and illicitly-made fentanyl. The Council began tracking unintentional injuries in 1903.

Final Council analysis shows motor vehicle deaths rose 6.8 percent to 40,327 in 2016.NSC can now confirm that the final 2016 data marks a 14 percent increase in roadway deaths since 2014 – the largest two-year jump in 53 years.

The National Safety Council has launched various initiatives to educate Americans about how they can reduce their own risks. Recent efforts and resources include:

The Stop Everyday Killers campaign puts a face on the opioid epidemic through film, digital assets and a traveling memorial exhibit, which stops in Pittsburgh on January 29. Visit stopeverydaykillers.org for more information.

  • The Road to Zero coalition – a joint effort with the U.S. Department of Transportation – is working to end all roadway fatalities by 2050. Visit nsc.org/roadtozero for more.
  • The State of Safety report provides a roadmap for states to better protect residents. According to the report, no state receives an “A” – and 11 states are failing. Visit nsc.org/stateofsafety for more.

NSC Initiatives Page

The National Safety Council Does Not Believe In Accidents

Check our Initiatives Page for:

  1. Workplace Safety
  2. Distracted Driving
  3. Car Crashes: the #1 Cause of Teen Deaths
  4. Prescription Drug Abuse
  5. Safe Communities

DriveitHOME™ offers parents proven ways they can help their teens reduce crash risk while building confidence and skills during the first year of licensure and beyond.  We are encouraging you to visit driveithome.org and share the visually-compelling materials and use them to supplement your existing teen driving materials. 

DriveitHome resources include easy-to-understand text and videos and parents can sign up to receive daily tips through email and text messages.


The National Safety Council, Ohio Chapter saves lives by preventing injuries and deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the roads, through leadership, education and advocacy. 

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