Unintentional Death in the United States
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Death in The United States: An Analysis of 19 Years of CDC Data

Posted By Legal Team | November 3 2022 | Wrongful Death

Every year, millions of people die in the United States from a wide range of causes.  In 2020, while the U.S. (and the world) was ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 3.4 million U.S. resident deaths were registered 528,000 more than in 2019.  This represented the largest single-year increase since the first year of annual mortality data for the US became available.

When looking at state-level data, we find significant variance from state to state.  We examined 18 years of CDC data (1999 through 2017, the latest available version of this data) to find out where people die at higher rates and lower rates in the United States.

Of course, comparing total death while interesting does not provide an accurate means of comparison.  Therefore, the CDC provides age-adjusted rates that account for each state’s population.

Consider this: while the age-adjusted death rate for the entire U.S. in 2020 was 835.4 (again, after the largest single-year increase in history), 17 states had a higher average death rate during the 19-year period.  

Chart: Age-Adjusted Death Rates from 1999-2017

*this chart is interactive.  Hover over the bubbles to reveal the death rate and year.  Red lines indicate the 19-year average death rate.

So, in which states do more U.S. residents die at higher rates?  When looking at map, it’s easy to see that they are mostly Southern and Midwestern states. In particular, Mississippi had the highest overall death rate at 988 deaths per 100,000, followed by West Virginia with 963 and Alabama with 962.

Map: Where Do People Die at the Highest Rates in the U.S.?

Of course, the age-adjusted death rate includes all registered deaths from all causes.  This includes heart disease, cancers, respiratory diseases, influenza, and unintentional injuries.

According to the CDC, unintentional injuries have been the third leading cause of death during this 19-year period and are the leading cause of death for younger Americans, those aged 44 years old and younger.  Unintentional poisoning (which has spiked in recent years due to the Opioid epidemic), motor vehicle collisions, drowning, and falls are the most common sources of unintentional (or accidental) deaths in the United States.

As consumer safety attorneys, we are very interested in deaths caused by incidents such as motor vehicle collisions or falls.  While disease-related deaths may be reduced by early detection or improved access to healthcare, deaths caused by unintentional injury are 100 percent preventable.

Where then are people killed as a result by accidents at the highest rate?  Accidental deaths make up the highest percentage of all deaths in Alaska, at nearly ten percent.  Alaska is followed closely by New Mexico and Wyoming.

Map: Where Do Accidental Deaths Represent a Disproportionately High Share of Fatalities?

Table: Data for all U.S. States

State Unintentional Injury Deaths Total Deaths Unintentional Injury Death Rate Percent Of All Deaths
Alabama 45,871 914,067 50.95 5.02
Alaska 6,744  67,789 56.88 9.95
Arizona 58,144 895,865 49.24 6.49
Arkansas 27,027 555,553 48.72 4.86
California 207,961 4,575,252 29.72 4.55
Colorado 41,025 599,361 45.16 6.84
Connecticut 26,424 562,638 36.18 4.70
Delaware 6,815 145,173 40.06 4.69
District of Columbia 4,286  99,121 36.79 4.32
Florida 168,236 3,334,759 44.02 5.04
Georgia 72,052 1,342,156 42.62 5.37
Hawaii 8,443 183,683 30.93 4.60
Idaho 12,815 214,181 45.31 5.98
Illinois 83,902 1,981,914 34.05 4.23
Indiana 50,579 1,097,283 41.03 4.61
Iowa 24,403 537,802 37.76 4.54
Kansas 23,898 475,935 42.57 5.02
Kentucky 46,709 800,867 57.18 5.83
Louisiana 44,306 801,761 51.79 5.53
Maine 11,578 246,518 42.63 4.70
Maryland 29,884 850,448 27.13 3.51
Massachusetts 41,163 1,045,879 30.49 3.94
Michigan 73,548 1,697,556 37.63 4.33
Minnesota 40,513 746,666 38.02 5.43
Mississippi 32,613 558,436 58.71 5.84
Missouri 56,188 1,070,201 48.36 5.25
Montana 10,683 168,680 54.86 6.33
Nebraska 13,636 294,874 37.15 4.62
Nevada 20,538 369,939 42.80 5.55
New Hampshire 10,289 200,504 39.75 5.13
New Jersey 51,795 1,366,422 29.83 3.79
New Mexico 24,155 300,286 64.57 8.04
New York 102,652 2,896,936 26.36 3.54
North Carolina 80,979 1,492,170 46.07 5.43
North Dakota 5,716 113,792 40.23 5.02
Ohio 97,622 2,110,957 43.08 4.62
Oklahoma 40,155 696,993 56.31 5.76
Oregon 30,710 612,587 40.00 5.01
Pennsylvania 112,829 2,449,539 43.52 4.61
Rhode Island 8,543 186,494 37.78 4.58
South Carolina 43,821 782,071 50.85 5.60
South Dakota 7,802 136,687 47.30 5.71
Tennessee 63,534 1,136,868 52.99 5.59
Texas 171,530 3,167,333 39.19 5.42
Utah 17,187 278,545 38.54 6.17
Vermont 5,609 101,450 43.68 5.53
Virginia 53,886 1,139,776 36.29 4.73
Washington 49,869 922,683 38.84 5.40
West Virginia 22,997 409,572 63.42 5.61
Wisconsin 50,243 910,313 43.59 5.52
Wyoming 5,913 82,234 56.91 7.19

 

We examined the data to find out in which states are people killed as a result of unintentional injuries most often and where they make up the highest percentage of deaths. We ranked them with a composite score that factors in the percentage of all deaths that are a result of unintentional injuries.

Using rates is much more accurate when comparing states of different sizes.  For instance, California had the most unintentional injury deaths over that time frame.  However, due to the massive population of the state, it had the third lowest unintentional injury death rate.   Conversely, Alaska had the fifth-fewest unintentional injury deaths, but the sixth-highest rate.

Below, we list the ten worst and ten best states for accidental deaths.

The Ten States You Are Most Likely To Die In an Accident

1. New Mexico

  • Unintentional Injury Death Rate: 1/51
  • Percentage of All Deaths: 2/51
  • All Deaths from 1999-2017: 300,286
  • Unintentional Deaths from 1999-2017: 24,155

New Mexico takes the top spot, home to both the highest unintentional injury fatality rate in the United States (65.57 unintentional deaths per 100,000 people) and the second-highest share of all deaths.

2. Alaska

  • Unintentional Injury Death Rate: 6/51
  • Percentage of All Deaths: 1/51
  • All Deaths from 1999-2017: 67,789
  • Unintentional Deaths from 1999-2017: 6,744

Bit of Info here. 56.88 The rugged and often remote terrain of Alaska is likely a factor in the state having the highest percentage of deaths (9.995) coming from accidents.   Combined with the sixth-highest unintentional death rate of 56.88, it’s our second-worst state for accidental deaths.

3. Wyoming

  • Unintentional Injury Death Rate: 5/51
  • Percentage of All Deaths: 3/51
  • All Deaths from 1999-2017: 82,234
  • Unintentional Deaths from 1999-2017: 5,913

The only state besides New Mexico to have both metrics in the top five, Wyoming is number three overall.  Here, 7.19 percent of deaths occur as a result of accidents at a rate of 56.91.

4. Mississippi

  • Unintentional Injury Death Rate: 3/51
  • Percentage of All Deaths: 9/51
  • All Deaths from 1999-2017: 558,436
  • Unintentional Deaths from 1999-2017: 32,613

Mississippi had the third-highest unintentional injury death rate at 58.71, along with the ninth-highest percentage of deaths coming from accidents, 5.84 percent.

5. Kentucky

  • Unintentional Injury Death Rate: 4/51
  • Percentage of All Deaths: 10/51
  • All Deaths from 1999-2017: 800,867
  • Unintentional Deaths from 1999-2017: 46,709

The state of Kentucky was home to the fourth-highest U/I death rate (57.18) making up the tenth-highest percentage of all deaths (5.83).  Kentucky was just behind Mississippi in both metrics. During the 19-year period, 46,709 people lost their lives in unintentional accidents.

6. Montana

  • Unintentional Injury Death Rate: 8/51
  • Percentage of All Deaths: 6/51
  • All Deaths from 1999-2017: 168,680
  • Unintentional Deaths from 1999-2017: 10,683

In a state famous for having no speed limits (although Montana reinstated them in 1999), Montana is the sixth worst state for unintentional injuries.  6.33 percent of all deaths come from unintentional injuries at a rate of 54.86 per 100,000.

7. West Virginia

  • Unintentional Injury Death Rate: 2/51
  • Percentage of All Deaths: 13/51
  • All Deaths from 1999-2017: 409,572
  • Unintentional Deaths from 1999-2017: 22,997

Perhaps the state hit worst by the Opioid epidemic, West Virginia had the second-highest unintentional injury death rate in the United States (63.51).  However, due to a high number to total deaths, this was only the 13th highest share of all deaths (5.61 percent).

8. Arizona

  • Unintentional Injury Death Rate: 13/51
  • Percentage of All Deaths: 5/51
  • All Deaths from 1999-2017: 895,865
  • Unintentional Deaths from 1999-2017: 58,144

According to the New York Times, Arizona has the third most residents living more than 30 minutes from emergency medical services.  Perhaps that is why 6.49 percent of all deaths are the result of accidents, the fifth highest share in the country. Interestingly, the U/I rate comes in at only the 13th-highest (49.24).

9. Oklahoma

  • Unintentional Injury Death Rate: 7/51
  • Percentage of All Deaths: 11/51
  • All Deaths from 1999-2017: 696,993
  • Unintentional Deaths from 1999-2017: 40,155

At number nine, Oklahoma was seventh in U/I injury rate (56.51) and eleventh in share of deaths (5.76).

10. Colorado

  • Unintentional Injury Death Rate: 19/51
  • Percentage of All Deaths: 4/51
  • All Deaths from 1999-2017: 599,361
  • Unintentional Deaths from 1999-2017: 41,025

Perhaps due to the outdoorsy reputation of Colorado and it’s impact on residents’ overall health, the state had the fourth-highest percentage of deaths resulting from unintentional injury (6.84) but only the 19th-highest U/I death rate (45.16).

Accidental Deaths: The Ten States You Are Least Likely to Die in an Accident

1. Maryland

  • Unintentional Injury Death Rate: 50/51
  • Share of All Deaths: 51/51
  • All Deaths from 1999-2017: 850,448
  • Unintentional Deaths from 1999-2017: 29,884

Bit of Info here   27.13 3.51. The safest state in terms of dying from accidental injury is Maryland.  Maryland had the second-lowest rate of death (27.13) and the lowest percentage of all deaths caused by accidental injury (3.51).  Tied with New York for the lowest composite score, the tie was broken by the total number of accidental injury deaths, where Maryland had far fewer than New York.

2. New York

  • Unintentional Injury Death Rate: 51/51
  • Share of All Deaths: 50/51
  • All Deaths from 1999-2017: 2,896,936
  • Unintentional Deaths from 102,652

Despite being one of the most populous states in the Union, New York had the lowest rate of unintentional injury deaths  ( 26.36) and the second lowest share of all deaths with 3.54 percent.

3. New Jersey

  • Unintentional Injury Death Rate: 48/51
  • Share of All Deaths: 49/51
  • All Deaths from 1999-2017: 1,366,422
  • Unintentional Deaths from 1999-2017: 51,795

Bit of Info here  29.83 3.79 Just behind New York is neighboring New Jersey at number three.  Jersey had the fourth-lowest U/I death rate (29.83) and the third-lowest percentage deaths being caused by accidental injury (3.79).

4. Massachusetts

  • Unintentional Injury Death Rate: 47/51
  • Share of All Deaths: 48/51
  • All Deaths from 1999-2017: 1,045,879
  • Unintentional Deaths from 1999-2017: 41,163

Another state along the east coast of the United States, Massachusetts is the fourth-safest.  With a share of all deaths at 3.94 percent and a U/I death rate of 30.91, MA was fourth and fifth respectively in each category.

5. Illinois

  • Unintentional Injury Death Rate: 45/51
  • Share of All Deaths: 47/51
  • All Deaths from 1999-2017: 1,981,914
  • Unintentional Deaths from 1999-2017: 83,902

Despite the gun violence issues that plague Chicago, Illinois is among the states where residents are least likely to die from unintentional injuries.  The state had the seventh-lowest unintentional death rate (34.05) and the fifth-lowest percentage of deaths caused by accidental injuries.

6. California

  • Unintentional Injury Death Rate: 49/51
  • Share of All Deaths: 43/51
  • All Deaths from 1999-2017: 4,575,252
  • Unintentional Deaths from 1999-2017: 207,961

By far the most populous state (and by extension home to the most licensed drivers), California – perhaps surprisingly to some – is also among the safest states by this measure.  Despite having the most unintentional resident deaths during the 19-year time period, it actually had the third-lowest rate (29.72) and the ninth-lowest share of deaths resulting from accidents.

7. District of Columbia

  • Unintentional Injury Death Rate: 42/51
  • Share of All Deaths: 46/51
  • All Deaths from 1999-2017: 99,121
  • Unintentional Deaths from 1999-2017: 4,286

The U.S. Capital and owning the smallest footprint, D.C. (while not a state) is the seventh safest.  The District had the tenth-lowest accidental injury death rate, causing only 4.32 percent of deaths – the sixth-lowest.

8. Hawaii

  • Unintentional Injury Death Rate: 46/51
  • Share of All Deaths: 41/51
  • All Deaths from 1999-2017: 183,683
  • Unintentional Deaths from 1999-2017: 8,443

The Aloha state’s inclusion on the safest state list is likely not surprising given it’s relaxed reputation.   Hawaii had the sixth lowest rate of U/I at 30.93.  At the same time, the 8,443 unintentional deaths made up 4.60 percent of all deaths, the eleventh-lowest share.

9. Michigan

  • Unintentional Injury Death Rate: 1/51
  • Share of All Deaths: 2/51
  • All Deaths from 1999-2017: 300,286
  • Unintentional Deaths from 1999-2017: 24,155

Another of the more populated states appearing on the safe list, Michigan had the seventh-lowest share of deaths coming from accidents (4.33 percent)and the eleventh-lowest death rate (37.63).

10. Iowa

  • Unintentional Injury Death Rate: 39/51
  • Share of All Deaths: 44/51
  • All Deaths from 1999-2017: 300,286
  • Unintentional Deaths from 1999-2017: 24,155

Taking up the last spot in the top ten, Iowa had the thirteenth-lowest accidental death rate, but those deaths made up only 4.54 percent of all fatalities – good for the eighth-lowest share.

Data and Methodology

All data from this analysis comes from the Centers of Disease Control (CDC).  State rankings were determined by a composite score based on unintentional death rate and the percentage of all fatalities that come from accidental deaths.

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