Fear vs. Reality: Which Household Accidents Should You Worry About?

Written by | Updated July 1, 2019

Every year, more than 160,000 Americans die as a result of an accident, making accidents the third biggest cause of death across the country—and unintentional household injury makes up 75% of those deaths. We all know that accidents happen, but do our fears about household injuries line up with reality?

To find out which accidents are the most fatal, we dove into data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and compared the most common accidents to what people told us they’re worried about in our State of Safety study. We also looked at which injuries landed people in the ER most often, and which ones were the most fatal. Read on to see if your fears match up with reality and find out which accident is the most fatal in your state.

The Top 5 Fatal Household Injuries in the US

icons showing top five fatal injuries

States with The Most Household Injury Fatalities 

table showing fatality rate and level of concern fo top five states

States with The Least Household Injury Fatalities

graphic showing fatality rate and level of concern for states with lowest number of household accidents

A Closer Look at Fatal Household Injuries

  • The top five most fatal household injuries in the US are (in order from most fatal to least) poisoning, falls, choking or suffocation, drowning, and fires or burns.
  • Every year around 40,000 people die as a result of car crashes—but that’s just 25% of all deaths due to an accident. Household accidents result in death three times more than motor vehicle crashes.
  • Injury is the leading cause of death for people under 45 years old.¹
  • One person dies from an injury every three minutes—that’s around 214,000 people per year. But millions of people who sustain injuries survive.²
  • For each person that dies from an injury, there are 13 that are hospitalized and 129 that seek treatment in an emergency room.³
  • Males are almost twice as likely to die from an injury-related accident than females.⁴
  • West Virginia, New Mexico, and Wisconsin have the highest death rates due to accidental injury. Maryland, California, and New York have the lowest.

States with the Highest Fatality Rates by Injury

#1 Poisoning

states with most drug and alcohol fatalities
states with most household poisoning fatalities
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning is the second most worrisome household accident on the State of
    Safety, and it is one of the most common non-fatal injuries.⁵
  • The top five states for fatal drug and alcohol poisoning are among those showing the lowest levels of concern on the State of Safety report.
  • Overdose fatalities increased from 10% to 14% between 2015 and 2016, with much of that increase was attributed to the opioid crisis.⁶
  • There were more than 70,000 overdose deaths in 2017, and around 68% were tied to opioids.⁷
  • Only 13% of State of Safety respondents in West Virginia named drug and alcohol poisoning a top concern. In fact, it was the least-feared household accident in the state but tops the list for fatalities due to alcohol and drug overdoses.
  • West Virginia also had the highest number of opioid-related deaths in the country in 2017, with a fatality rate of 49.6 deaths per 100,000 people. That’s three times higher than the average national fatality rate of 14.6.⁸

States with Highest Fatality Rates for Drug and Alcohol Poisoning

StateFatal InjuryFatality Rate per 100,000State’s Level of High Concern
West VirginiaIllicit drugs and alcohol13.613%
KentuckyIllicit drugs and alcohol11.124%
PennsylvaniaIllicit drugs and alcohol10.217%
New MexicoPrescription drug overdose9.817%
New HampshirePrescription drug overdose9.311%
NevadaPrescription drug overdose8.922%

States with Highest Fatality Rates for Household Poisoning

StateFatal InjuryFatality Rate per 100,000State’s Level of High Concern
KentuckyCleaning supplies and toxic vapors0.823%
OklahomaCleaning supplies and toxic vapors0.418%
AlaskaCO Poisoning0.418%
WyomingCO Poisoning0.422%
MontanaCO Poisoning0.417%

#2 Falls

states with most fall fatalities
  • Over 2.7 million older people are treated for falls every year, and falls are the number one fatal accident for people over 65. Falls are also the leading cause of nonfatal injuries.⁹
  • Regardless of age, more than 40% of respondents to the State of Safety report express high concern about falls, but falls are more likely to lead to death for people over 55 years old.
  • Wisconsin, the top state for deaths resulting from falls, named falls it’s number one household safety fear (with 30%), but that level of concern is still 15 percentage points below the national average. In fact, Wisconsin expressed less fear than the rest of the country about all household accidents.

States with Highest Fatality Rates for Falls

StateFatal InjuryFatality Rate per 100,000State’s Level of High Concern
WisconsinFalls17.430%
VermontFalls16.933%
South DakotaFalls15.637%
MinnesotaFalls14.335%
New MexicoFalls14.239%

#3 Choking or Suffocation

states with most choking fatalities
  • Unintentional suffocation is the leading cause of accidental death for infants.10
  • Nationwide, 31% of people express a high level of concern about choking and suffocation, according to the State of Safety report.
  • Mississippi has the highest rate of fatal choking and suffocation incidents, but is the least concerned about those safety issues among the five worst states for choking and suffocation.

States with Highest Fatality Rates for Choking or Suffocation

StateFatal InjuryFatality Rate per 100,000State’s Level of High Concern
MississippiChoking or suffocation3.725%
South CarolinaChoking or suffocation3.133%
LouisianaChoking or suffocation3.131%
West VirginiaChoking or suffocation330%
TennesseeChoking or suffocation338%

#4 Drowning

states with most drowning fatalities
  • Of the top five most fatal accidents, drowning is the least feared on our State of Safety report.
  • About 10 people die from drowning every day in the US, and 1- to 4-year-olds are at greatest risk.¹¹
  • Alaska, the worst state for drowning fatalities, expressed a level of concern about drowning that is half the national level of 24%.

States with Highest Fatality Rates for Drowning

StateFatal InjuryFatality Rate per 100,000State’s Level of High Concern
AlaskaDrowning3.612%
HawaiiDrowning2.826%
FloridaDrowning227%
LouisianaDrowning226%
OklahomaDrowning1.820%

#5 Fires or Burns

states with fire and burn fatalities
  • Seven of the top ten states for home fire deaths are in the South, and the top five states with the most fatalities due to fire and burns are southern states: Mississippi, South Carolina, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.
  • Children between the ages of 1 and 14 have the most fatalities due to fires and burns, but this fatal accident drops off the top 10 causes of accidental death once people turn 15. Accidental fires and burns don’t break back into the top 10 fatal accidents until age 55.¹²

States with Highest Fatality Rates for Fires or Burns

StateFatal InjuryFatality Rate per 100,000State’s Level of High Concern
MississippiFires or burns1.227%
South CarolinaFires or burns1.242%
AlabamaFires or burns1.140%
OklahomaFires or burns121%
TennesseeFires or burns140%

Safety Tips to Prevent Household Accidents

Safety Tips to Prevent Accidental Poisoning

  • Keep poisons like household cleaners, alcohol, and medication locked up.
  • Use sensors with sirens on the liquor cabinet and medicine cabinet.
  • Don’t reuse milk or juice cartons for other purposes.
  • Educate your children about the safety hazards of household cleaners, drugs, and alcohol.

Safety Tips to Prevent Falls

  • Use safety gates on stairs to keep babies and toddlers safe.
  • Use rug pads to avoid tripping hazards.
  • Use grab bars in the bathroom.
  • Use night-lights in hallways and on stairs.
  • Add tread to slippery stairs.

Safety Tips to Prevent Choking or Suffocation

  • For babies and younger kids, cut up food into small bites.
  • Supervise young kids when they’re eating.
  • Secure power cords and blinds cords to avoid a strangulation hazard.
  • Keep pillows, blankets, and soft toys out of baby cribs.

Safety Tips to Prevent Accidental Drowning

  • Never leave a child unattended around water, including bathtubs, pools, lakes, streams, etc.
  • Add gate sensors to pool areas.
  • Use water sensors in pool areas to alert you to an unexpected splash.
  • Use proper water safety equipment like life preservers whenever on a boat, fishing, etc.

Safety Tips to Prevent Fire or Burns

  • Don’t leave candles or fireplaces unattended.
  • Regularly test smoke alarms and change the batteries every six months.  
  • Don’t leave food or kettles on the stove unattended.
  • Use safety gates around fireplaces and barbecues if there are little ones around.

Methodology

  • For National Safety Month, we wanted to raise awareness about the most common fatal accidents across the US. We looked at National Safety Council and CDC data for unintentional fatal injuries to identify the states with the highest fatality rates for the most common household accidents.¹³ Then, to see how well reality matches up with perception, we compared that information with the top safety concerns by state from our State of Safety Survey.14

Sources

  1. CDC, “Injury Prevention & Control, Key Data and Statistics
  2. CDC, “Injury Prevention & Control, Key Data and Statistics
  3. CDC, “Injury Prevention & Control, Key Data and Statistics
  4. CDC, “WISQARS Injury Mortality Reports, 2017 United States Unintentional Injury Deaths and Rates per 100,000. All Races, Both Sexes, All Ages
  5. CDC, “National Estimates of the 10 Leading Causes of Nonfatal Injuries Treated in Hospital Emergency Departments, United States—2017
  6. CDC, “Drug Overdose Death Rates, by Drug Type, Sex, Age, Race, and Hispanic Origin: United States, Selected Years 1999–2016
  7. 7. CDC, “Opioid Overdose, Understanding the Epidemic
  8. National Institute on Drug Abuse, “West Virginia Opioid Summary
  9. CDC, “Injury Prevention & Control, Key Data and Statistics”; CDC, “10 Leading Causes of Injury Deaths by Age Group Highlighting Unintentional Injury Deaths—2017”; CDC, “National Estimates of the 10 Leading Causes of Nonfatal Injuries Treated in Hospital Emergency Departments, United States—2017
  10. CDC, “10 Leading Causes of Injury Deaths by Age Group Highlighting Unintentional Injury Deaths—2017
  11. National Safety Council, “Drowning: It Can Happen in an Instant
  12. CDC, “10 Leading Causes of Injury Deaths by Age Group Highlighting Unintentional Injury Deaths—2017
  13. National Safety Council, “Top Causes of Unintentional Injury and Death in Homes and Communities”; CDC, “National Center for Health Statistics, Accidents or Unintentional Injuries”; CDC, “National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, 2016 Emergency Department Summary Tables” ; CDC, “10 Leading Causes of Injury Deaths by Age Group Highlighting Unintentional Injury Deaths—2017
  14. SafeWise, “State of Safety in the Nation

Written by Rebecca Edwards

Rebecca has honed her safety and security skills as both a single mom and a college director. Being responsible for the well-being of others helped her learn how to minimize risk and create safe environments. Learn more

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