Motor Vehicle Crashes Were the 11th Leading Cause of Death in 2009

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Fatalities in motor vehicle crashes have declined by about 25 percent since 2005

For the first time since 1981 (when data was first available), motor vehicle traffic crashes were not among the top 10 causes of death in the United States. Motor vehicle crashes were the 11th leading cause of death in 2009. In 2008, motor vehicle traffic crashes were the 9th leading cause of death overall. Fatalities in motor vehicle crashes have declined by about 25 percent since 2005, influenced largely by a significant drop in crashes and fatalities involving the younger population.


Vehicle traffic crashes comprise a significant propor- tion of all fatalities due to unintentional injuries

the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) in its annual report on mortality publishes detailed tabulations of the leading causes of death, the fatali- ties due to motor vehicle traffic crashes are lumped into the very general category of Unintentional Injuries. Fatalities due to motor vehicle traffic crashes comprise a significant propor- tion of all fatalities due to unintentional injuries, especially at younger ages.


Motor vehicle traffic crashes

Motor vehicle traffic crashes ranked eleventh overall as a cause of death, they were ranked as high as fifth in terms of the years of life lost, behind other major causes of death such as cancer, heart diseases, stroke and chronic lower respiratory diseasesThe Center for Disease Control (CDC) maintains a data and statistics Web portal WISQARS (Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System) that presents the leading causes of fatal injury in the United States going back to 1982.


Expected years of remaining life

Years of Life Lost: This is the number of remaining years that the person was expected to have lived had they not died. The number of years of life lost due to a particular cause is the aggregate of years of life lost for all people who died due to that cause. The expected years of remaining life are cal- culated using standard tables of life expectancy by age (Life Expectancy at Selected Ages for 2009, NCHS).


Factors such as crashes and acts of violence

The NCSA-adopted listing of 68 causes of death is compre- hensive in that all underlying causes are represented. Fifty- one of these 68 adopted causes reflect the underlying caus- es based on internal morbid bodily conditions, while 16 NCSA-adopted causes reflect the underlying causes based on external factors such as crashes and acts of violence, and the remaining cause reflects all other diseases. This 68-cause listing is not an arbitrary listing, but is generally in close agreement with a special listing of death causes used by the NCHS to report on leading causes of death in the United States.


Leading causes of death

The latter differs from the NCSA listing primarily in causal areas related to unintentional injuries (accidental death). While NCHS uses the combined cause of unintentional injuries in its reports of leading causes of death, this study separates out the various causes that comprise unintentional injuries like fatalities in motor vehicle traffic crashes, acci- dental falls, poisoning, motor vehicle non-traffic crashes, etc. Accordingly, the rankings of some causes of death will differ from those reported by NCHS. The NCSA cause listing also differs from the NCHS listing for causes of infant mortal- ity.

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