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Stat Bull Metrop Insur Co. 2000 Apr-Jun;81(2):18-26.

Trends in unintentional-injury deaths during the 20th century.


Since 1900 the number of deaths per 100,000 population due to unintentional injuries (accidents) was reduced by 53 percent, dropping from 72 to 34. Had this rate not decreased almost 4.2 million more people would have died from unintentional injuries over the century. Of the seven kinds of injury events that accounted for 90 percent of all unintentional injury deaths in 1998, only two experienced increases in rates. Death rates from falls, fires and burns, drowning, poisoning by gases and vapors and firearms were reduced between 61 and 90 percent. The mortality rate due to poisoning by solids and liquids, however, increased 19 percent while that from motor-vehicle crashes sky-rocketed by 7,500 percent. In 1910 there were 468,500 vehicles registered in the United States and the death rate from these crashes was 0.2 per 100,000. In 1998, however, there were 215.4 million vehicles and a death rate of 15.2. Deaths due to solid and liquid poisonings ranged between 1,500 and 2,500 until the late 1960s and now number more than 8,000 annually. The increase is greatest among persons between the ages of 25 and 44 and is largely attributed to illegal drugs. Death rates in this category were lowest in the 1950s and now are as high as in the mid-1910s. Deaths due to falls fluctuated from about 7,400 in 1910 to nearly 25,000 annually in the 1940s, to about 11,400 in 1986, and to 16,600 in 1998. Death rates for age groups under 65 years are at their lowest while those for the 65 and older age group have been increasing. Drowning and firearms deaths have decreased fairly steadily since the early 1970s. Death rates for all age groups have shown steady reductions over the century and are now at or near their lowest points. The firearms death rate for 15-24 year olds, however, was and is substantially greater than all other age groups. The number of deaths due to fires and burns and gas and vapor poisonings have been declining since the mid-1960s and late 1970s respectively. Fire and burn death rates among young children and the elderly have shown the greatest improvement.

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