The Grapevine

Opioid Epidemic And Falls Fueling Higher Rates Of Accidental Death

Accidents are bound to happen, but Americans are dying from preventable causes more than ever. The latest calculations reveal that in 2014, a total of 136,000 Americans died from preventable causes. Why the sudden 4.2 percent jump from 2013?

It’s not that Americans are becoming clumsier or more accident-prone. According to the new report from the National Safety Council, fatal overdoses and falls deserve much of the blame. At this rate, an American dies by accident every four minutes. If you count those who would’ve died had medicine not saved them, the rate increases to one death every second.

"It's all preventable. Every accident is preventable," said Ken Kolosh, the statistics manager at the National Safety Council, in a Thursday news conference. "Every individual has the opportunity to make choices to keep themselves safe. It's all preventable. Every accident is preventable. But it's not necessarily the [fault] of the victim."

Accidental Deaths Dying by accident is becoming more common in the United States. John Moore/Getty Images

According to Kolosh, despite accidental deaths becoming a public health issue, society does not do enough to prevent people from dying by accident. For example, the report found that in 2014 alone, slippery floors and rugs sent nearly 1.6 million people to the emergency room, while toilet accidents sent an additional 112,412 people. Bathrooms are a relatively dangerous place, especially with a growing elderly population. Elderly people are also the most prone to falls, which can lead to an accidental death — from a slippery bathroom to the corner of a carpet.

Meanwhile, motor vehicle accident-related deaths have dropped from 53,000 in 1980 to 35,398 in 2014. Despite the decrease, neglecting to use seat belts, speeding, and driving under the influence still lead to roughly 10,000 fatal car crashes in the United States every year. Distracted driving has added to the list of car accidents, such as cell phones and other portable electronic devices. However, even after the crash, it’s often difficult to determine if the cause of the accident was due to a distracted driver or if the fate of the car was out of their hands.

"Far fewer teenagers and young adults are dying on the roads than they were in 1981," Kolosh said. "Distraction-related crashes are very under-reported. It's very difficult for police officers at the time of a crash investigation to get accurate information about the level of distraction at the time of the crash."

As far as opioid overdoses are concerned, accidental deaths have reached epidemic proportions. According to the National Safety Council, opioids are overprescribed by doctors, and an alarming 70 percent of people who abuse prescription painkillers have admitted to obtaining them from friends or family. As of 2014 more than 47,000 people have died as a result of an overdose.

While these accidental deaths are climbing, they remain avoidable. The Council reminds the public that steps can be taken to reduce the number of deaths by implementing precautionary measures and adhering to strict guidelines designed to help reduce the amount of accidental overdoses, falls, and ultimately deaths.

Source: Injury Facts 2016 Is Your Source for Safety Data. National Safety Council. 2016.

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