Opioid overdose replaces car accidents as No. 1 cause of accidental death

Opioid overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death

Traffic accidents continue to claim American lives but they are no longer the number one cause of death in the United States. Opioid overdose has claimed that dubious title.

The National Safety Council reports the odds of dying accidentally from an opioid overdose have risen to one in 96 while the odds of dying in a motor vehicle crash remain at one in 103. The nation’s opioid crisis is fueling the Council’s grim probabilities, and that crisis is worsening with an influx of illicit fentanyl.

“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 the National Safety Council. “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 National Council on Drug Abuse’s Christopher Jones says families can be a powerful tool to combat drug overdose deaths.

“Having Noloxone on hand and learning how to respond to and recognize an overdose can make a big difference,” Jones said. “Certainly we want to get people into treatment but we need them to be alive in order to do that.”

After drug overdose and car accidents, falls are the third leading cause of accidential death, and these lethal falls have been increasing as the population gets older. The lifetime odds of dying from an accidental fall are one in 114 – a change from one in 119 just a year ago.

Bicycle accident deaths increased 28 percent in 2016 and deaths from sports and recreational injuries are also increasing, particularly among children ages five to 14.


About the Author

Truman Lewis
A former reporter and bureau chief, Truman Lewis has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and stories ranging from organized crime to environmental and consumer protection.