Read warning labels about opioids and avoid taking them before driving.

Americans More Likely to Die from Overdose than Vehicle Accident

Jan. 17, 2019
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.

About the Author

EHS Today Staff

EHS Today's editorial staff includes:

Dave Blanchard, Editor-in-Chief: During his career Dave has led the editorial management of many of Endeavor Business Media's best-known brands, including IndustryWeekEHS Today, Material Handling & LogisticsLogistics Today, Supply Chain Technology News, and Business Finance. In addition, he serves as senior content director of the annual Safety Leadership Conference. With over 30 years of B2B media experience, Dave literally wrote the book on supply chain management, Supply Chain Management Best Practices (John Wiley & Sons, 2021), which has been translated into several languages and is currently in its third edition. He is a frequent speaker and moderator at major trade shows and conferences, and has won numerous awards for writing and editing. He is a voting member of the jury of the Logistics Hall of Fame, and is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.

Adrienne Selko, Senior Editor: In addition to her roles with EHS Today and the Safety Leadership Conference, Adrienne is also a senior editor at IndustryWeek and has written about many topics, with her current focus on workforce development strategies. She is also a senior editor at Material Handling & Logistics. Previously she was in corporate communications at a medical manufacturing company as well as a large regional bank. She is the author of Do I Have to Wear Garlic Around My Neck?, which made the Cleveland Plain Dealer's best sellers list.

Nicole Stempak, Managing Editor:  Nicole Stempak is managing editor of EHS Today and conference content manager of the Safety Leadership Conference.

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