Crashes no longer leading cause of accidental death


Opioid overdoses have passed vehicle crashes as the leading cause of accidental death.


Watch any movie and one is exposed to what happens in the make-believe world in which crime – in whatever form – is connected to drugs. While we know that is only the movies, it is inevitable that these depict and mirror life.


This problem may or may not be exacerbated by the ‘relaxed attitude’ toward the use of cannabis/ marijuana. South Africans, however, need to take cognisance of what is happening in the US which could – if we track the statistics correctly and know what we are monitoring – be an indication of what we could see in SA.


For the first time in the US, the odds of dying in a motor vehicle crash (one in 103) were surpassed by the chance of dying accidentally from an opioid overdose. This has risen to one in 96, according to new data from the National Safety Council.


Motor vehicle collisions are now the second leading cause of accidental death. This is followed by falls, where the odds are one in 114.


While about 40 000 people lost their lives in crashes in 2017, deaths due to motor vehicle accidents held steady compared to 2016. There was a change of less than 0.5%.


Historically, motor vehicle accidents drive up fatality rates. From 1961-1973, total accidental deaths increased by 26% and death rates climbed by 9%. These increases are largely due to surges in motor vehicle deaths (46%) and death rates (26%).


The trend reversed between 1973 and 1992, when preventable deaths decreased 33% and death rates declined 38%. In 1992, the U.S. achieved the lowest recorded death rate of 34 deaths per capita (100,000 people). Motor vehicle deaths decreased 35%.


Overall, 2017 saw a record high number of preventable deaths — 169 936 as compared to 161 374 in 2016. That’s the highest death rate since 1973 — specifically, 52.2 deaths per 100,000 people.

Sobering stats indeed.


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