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A bottle with a hydrocodone (the generic name for drug sold under other names by various pharmaceutical companies) label and hydrocodone tablets spilling out isolated on white background. Hydrocodone is a popular prescription semi-synthetic opioid that is used to treat moderate to severe pain. Hydrocodone is said to be one of the most common recreational prescription drugs in America.

Americans More Likely to Die from Overdose than Vehicle Accident

Odds of dying from a fall also are the highest in history.

In the recently-released Injury Facts update, the National Safety Council (NSC) reports Americans are more likely to die from an accidental opioid overdose than from a motor vehicle crash.

The odds from an opioid overdose have risen to one in 96, eclipsing the odds of dying in a motor vehicle crash (one in 103). 

“We’ve made significant strides in overall longevity in the United States, but we are dying from things typically called accidents at rates we haven’t seen in half a century,” said Ken Kolosh, manager of statistics at NSC, in a statement. “We cannot be complacent about 466 lives lost every day. This new analysis reinforces that we must consistently prioritize safety at work, at home and on the road to prevent these dire outcomes.”

The third-leading cause of death, accidental falls, also skyrocketed to its highest number - one in 114, up from 119 year over year.

In addition to poisonings, the NSC has added older adult falls, fire-related fatalities and deaths by transportation mode to its Injury Facts online database. The portal's goal is to "demonstrate why Americans should be more concerned about preventable injuries than headline-grabbing catastrophes," according to the organization.

Added to the broader list of preventable death causes are designated pages about airplane crashes, railroad deaths and consumer products – all issues that tend to spark nationwide anxiety but lead to far fewer fatal incidents than routine, everyday activities such as taking medication, driving or getting out of bed.

Preventable injuries are the third leading cause of death, claiming an unprecedented 169,936 lives in 2017 and trailing only heart disease and cancer.

Of the three leading causes of death, preventable injuries were the only category to experience an increase in 2017, according to NSC analysis of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data issued in December 2018. A person’s lifetime odds of dying from any preventable, accidental cause are one in 25 – a change from one in 30 in 2004.

Additional new data on Injury Facts – digitized last spring after 98 years of hardcover publication – include:

  • Bicycle deaths, which increased 28% in 2016
  • Deaths by sex, age and cause, revealing more men die from preventable causes than women
  • Intentional vs. preventable deaths, with preventable deaths far outnumbering intentional ones

Injury Facts is available on the NSC website.


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