Unintentional injuries are common across the country. In 2021, American adults and children experienced 62 million injuries — a nearly 12 percent increase over 2020. Not only did these incidents lead to $1.2 billion in healthcare or lost work costs, but they also led to nearly 225,000 preventable deaths.
Injuries can happen at any time. The good news is you can prevent many of them. At Memorial Healthcare System, we’re dedicated to helping adults and children guard against preventable injuries as much as possible.
Nationwide Impact of Preventable Injuries
In the United States, preventable injuries are the third leading cause of death, behind heart disease and cancer. And these injuries are at an all-time high, having a 159 percent increase over the past two decades.
Additionally, deaths from preventable injuries increased across all major categories between 2020 and 2021. The major types of injury and their increases included the following:
- Home-related: 13%
- Motor-vehicle: 11%
- Public (non-work-related): 10.5%
- Work-related: 8.8%
The leading cause of death from preventable injury differs by age group.
- Motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause among teens and young adults.
- Poisoning — particularly opioid overdoses — impacts adults between ages 22 and 68 the most.
- Among older adults ages 68 to 84, falls are the greatest danger.
- Males account for 67 percent of all deaths from preventable injuries. They experience over 70 percent of all poisoning, motor vehicle, drowning and blunt-force deaths.
- Gender is not a factor when it comes to fall- and choking-related deaths.
Preventable Injuries in Florida
Florida ranks 13th nationwide for preventable-injury-related deaths, according to 2021 data from the National Safety Council.
Per 100,000 people, in 2021, the state reported the most deaths related to:
- Poisoning: 35.1
- Falls: 19.4
- Motor vehicles: 17.9
- All other: 7.6
Top Preventable Injuries
In the United States, most deaths related to preventable injuries happen in eight main categories across all age groups:
- Poisoning: 43%
- Motor vehicle: 21%
- Fall: 21%
- Other: 8%
- Suffocation: 3%
- Drowning: 2%
- Fire/burn: 1%
- Natural/Environment: 1%
Visit the Safe Kids Worldwide Library page for details about how to help prevent childhood injuries.
Home- and community-related injuries include accidents that don’t happen at work or involve a motor vehicle.
- They account for the most injury-related deaths nationwide.
- In 2021, these injuries claimed approximately 175,500 lives – 78% of all preventable deaths.
- Incidents led to 52.5 million non-fatal injuries.
- Poisoning is the leading cause (58%) of home- and community-related preventable injury.
- Drowning, fire, and guns also pose considerable dangers.
Up to 4,000 people — roughly 10 people per day — die from drowning. It’s the No. 1 cause of death for children between ages 1 and 4 and the No. 5 cause from birth to age 5. Approximately 23 percent of accidental drownings happen during family gatherings at the pool.
Nearly 1.4 million fires occurred in 2021, causing 3,800 deaths and 14,700 injuries. Across the country, people report a home fire every 93 seconds. Additionally, a fire-related injury occurs every 47 minutes, and officials record a fire-related death every three hours.
Gun deaths rose 8 percent between 2020 and 2021, reaching nearly 49,000. However, accidental gun deaths have remained relatively steady for the past 10 years, rising from 548 in 2012 to 549 in 2021. Unintentional gun-related incidents account for 2 percent of all gun deaths and 37 percent of all non-fatal firearm injuries.
Preventive strategies can help reduce these injuries. These steps can include the following.
- Keep medications properly labeled and stored
- Keep medications away from children
- Install a carbon monoxide detector
- Correctly store and use all household chemicals and cleaners
- Learn CPR
- Provide children with swimming lessons
- Supervise children during swimming
- set up barriers around pools and use life jackets
- Test smoke detectors and fire alarms
- Install sprinklers
- Avoid smoking in bed
- Have and know how to use a fire extinguisher
- Plan and practice an escape route
- Practice safe storage by using a key or combination lock
- Keep ammunition and guns separated
- Approximately 25% of adults over age 65 have a fall every year in the United States.
- Roughly 3 million people are treated in the emergency room for their injuries.
- Over 800,000 end up in the hospital.
- Falls cause 95% of hip fractures.
- Falls are the most common cause of head injury.
These episodes are particularly dangerous because falling once doubles your chances of falling again. Depending on the severity, falls can lead to significant mobility problems. They are also expensive to the patients and the healthcare system — fall-related costs topped $50 billion to Medicare in 2015.
Fortunately, you can take steps to prevent falls. Strategies include:
- Strength and balance exercises
- Talking with your doctor about your risk of falling
- Vision testing and corrective lenses
- Securing cords and loose rugs
- Installing grab bars throughout the home
- Increased lighting at home
- Placing frequently used items within easy reach
- Motor-vehicle-related injuries can involve either cars or motorcycles.
- They are the second leading cause of injury-related death in the United States.
- The number of injuries increased by 8 percent in 2020 and 11 percent in 2021.
- Since 2019, more than 128,000 people have died in motor vehicle-related accidents.
Additionally, in 2021, motor-vehicle incidents resulted in 5.4 million injuries that required medical attention.
These injuries were also costly for the people involved and for the overall healthcare system, including lost wages and productivity, medical and administrative expenses, property damage and employer costs was nearly $500 million.
The biggest risk factors for these preventable injuries are:
- Driver distraction (texting, phone calls, eating, switching radio stations)
- Driver inattention (visual or cognitive disruptions that prevent concentration)
- Drunk/drugged driving
- Bad weather
Strategies to prevent motor vehicle injuries include:
- Wearing a seat belt
- Obeying the speed limit
- Driver’s education programs
- No alcohol consumption
- No cell phone use while driving
In the United States, only 1% of trips are taken by bicycle.
However, bicyclists make up over 2% of motor-vehicle-related deaths. Nearly 1,000 bicyclists die on roadways every year, and over 130,000 cyclists are injured. Like other motor-vehicle-related injuries, these injuries can be painful and life-changing. They can also be expensive, totaling up to $23 billion annually.
Most of these injury-related deaths happen in urban areas, particularly in intersections. Older cyclists between ages 55 and 69 are at greater risk for death, but teens and young adults most frequently visit the emergency room for bicycle-related injuries.
As with other preventable incidents, males are at higher risk. For example, they are six times more likely to die from a bicycle-related incident and five times more likely to be injured.
Effective prevention strategies while riding a bicycle include:
- Wearing bike helmets and following laws
- Wearing fluorescent clothing even during the day
- Retro-reflective clothing and materials on the bike that reflect light from headlights for night-time riding
- Using bicycle lighting (white lights in front, red lights in back)