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Accidental death statistics

Americans are dying in accidents at a higher rate than 20 years ago.

While accidents are bound to happen, understanding which accidents happen the most — and where they occur — can help you decrease the likelihood of one happening to you.

Accidental death over time: Are we safer now than we were?

Despite better technology and access to information helping us understand safety, people still face death by accidents. Accidental deaths have spiked from 35 deaths per 100,000 people in 1999 to 51 per 100,000 in 2018.

Based on these numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research (WONDER) database, accidental deaths jumped 46% over a 19-year time span.

Leading cause of deadly accidents isn’t what you’d expect

The most common reason for accidental death is accidental poisoning, including prescription overdoses. Accidental poisoning accounted for 62,400 deaths in 2018, based on the CDC’s WONDER data.

The next two highest reasons are car accidents, claiming around 39,400 lives, and deadly falls accounting for nearly 37,500 lives. However, your chances of dying from these and other accidents change based on your age. For example, senior citizens are more likely to suffer a fatal fall than children.

Deadliest states in the US for accidents

The state with the most deaths by accident is West Virginia, with 95 deaths for every 100,000 people. Maine is next at 75 lives lost for every 100,000 residents, with New Mexico in third place with 72 deaths.

To put these numbers into perspective, as the safest state, California’s deaths tally is 36 per 100,000 — less than half the lives lost compared to the deadliest states. Texas ranks as the second safest state for deadly accidents at 37 deaths per 100,000. New York followed by Maryland are the next safest at 38 accidental deaths per 100,000 people.

These low rates pose an interesting phenomenon, given that both California and Texas are some of the deadliest states for driving.


Deadliest time for accidents

You can find a pattern in the months or days of week when accidental deaths happen the most. During these times, you might keep your antennas up for potential hazards, especially the most common ones.

Deadliest month

Hands down, the worst time of year for serious accidents is July, according to the CDC’s data. During our research, we found that the months shifted in rankings over the years, except for July.

Do Fourth of July celebrations or the peak of summer activities cause this month to hold its ranking?

From 1999 to 2018, July saw 3.7 accidental deaths per 100,000 people. August follows with 3.6 deaths and December rides its heels at 3.5 deaths.

Deadliest day of the week

It’s no surprise that the number of people involved in deadly accidents climbs on the weekend. Saturday rings in as the least safe day with 8 deaths for every 100,000 weekenders. Sunday sinks to 7.6 deaths per 100,000, while Friday drops slightly to 7.5.

The lives lost on these days are likely caused by a variety of weekend activities, including home projects, sports or car accidents.

How to protect yourself from serious accidents

These precautions might save you or those you care about from the most common accidental deaths.

  1. Read medication labels. Follow the doctor’s or label’s exact dosage when taking a prescription medicine, and throw away or donate any medicine you don’t use, according to your doctor’s orders. If needed, ask a friend or family member to help keep track of the prescribed dosage and timing.
  2. Slow down your driving. Keep your speed in check whether you’re on a rural backroad or crowded city street. Both areas can turn dangerous because of winding roads, animals or changing lanes.
  3. Don’t drive drunk or drowsy. Take precautions to keep yourself and others safe, like ordering an Uber to drive you home from the bar. The same goes for driving without enough consistent sleep. Try to keep a regular sleep schedule so you’re fresh for your commute or weekend jaunt.
  4. Build your muscles and balance. Falling can happen out of nowhere, but regular exercise keeps your muscles strong enough to improve your balance and prevent a fall entirely.
  5. Take care of vision, feet or balance problems. Sometimes, falls happen because you can’t see uneven footing or because your shoes don’t give the proper support needed for balance. These problems can involve fixes as simple as a new pair of glasses or shoe inserts prescribed by a doctor.
  6. Learn how to swim. If you or your children aren’t familiar with proper swimming techniques, you might take time for family fun in swim classes, especially before a trip to the pool or beach.
  7. Take breaks between hard swimming exercises. Even strong swimmers need a breather after swimming laps. Respect the water, avoid pushing yourself to the top of your abilities and wear a life jacket when you’re in deep water.
  8. Consider your insurance coverage. Gain peace of mind that your loved ones are protected if an accident leads to your death by putting life insurance protection in place.

Resources for prescription addiction
If you’re using medication for non-prescribed reasons, you can reach out for professional advice on whether you’re addicted and what steps to take.

Try contacting the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment’s (CSAT) 24/7 advice line at 1-800-662-4357. A rep can answer your questions and refer you to the right treatment programs. You can also find a variety of information resources from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

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For all media inquiries, please contact:

Richard Laycock, Insights editor and senior content marketing manager


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Sarah George is Staff Writer for Small Business Loans at BankRate and formally a personal finance writer at Finder focusing on all things banking and insurance. Her know-how has been featured in such publications as CBS, CNET and, and she was a panelist in Finder’s 2020 money-saving webinar. Sarah earned an English education degree and is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance. See full bio

Sarah's expertise
Sarah has written 135 Finder guides across topics including:
  • Car, motorcycle, home and life insurance
  • Insurance for specific car models
  • Analysis of industry reports
  • Insurance policy comparison

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