Unintentional injury in the U.S. - Statistics & Facts

In 2017, unintentional injuries or accidents were the third leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for 6 percent of all deaths. An estimated 169,936 people died from unintentional injuries in 2017, with the highest death rate from unintentional injuries found among those aged 75 years and older. The most common types of unintentional injuries that lead to death involve poisonings, motor vehicles, and falls.

Accidents in the workplace, or occupational injuries, have decreased since the early 1990s, but remain a serious danger within specific occupations. Leading causes of disabling workplace injuries include overexertion, falls, and being struck by an object or equipment. Occupations with high fatal work injury rates include logging workers, fishers, aircraft pilots and flight engineers, and roofers. In 2017, there were approximately 5,147 occupational injury deaths in the U.S., with the largest portion involving those aged 55 to 64 years.

Motor vehicle injuries were the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death in 2017, with 37,133 such deaths. Rates of death from motor vehicle injuries have decreased significantly since the 1970s as technology has improved the safety of motor vehicles. In 1970, there were 27.6 deaths from motor vehicle injuries per 100,000 population, but, by 2016, this rate had decreased to 12.1 per 100,000 population. The risk of motor vehicle injury can depend on the vehicle type, make, and model. However, in 2016, the number of crashes involving motorcycles and large trucks was about the same, with some 101,000 and 110,000 crashes, respectively.

Some of the worst unintentional injuries involve spinal cord or head injuries, or more specifically, brain trauma. These types of injuries can lead to permanent physical or mental disability and even death. Motor vehicles resulted in the largest share of spinal cord injuries between 2015 and 2018, accounting for 39.3 percent of such injuries. As of 2018, there were around 17,730 spinal cord injuries every year and about 30 percent of people with such injuries were re-hospitalized in any given year. The estimated lifetime cost of a patient who is 25 years old and suffering from paraplegia in the United States was around 2.5 million dollars as of 2018.

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Unintentional injury in the U.S.

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Occupational injury

Traffic injuries

Spinal cord injuries


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