West Virginia is the state with the highest rate of death from injuries, such as those sustained in car crashes, falls, fires and drug overdoses, while New York has the lowest rate, according to a new report.
Researchers analyzed information on death rates from injuries — both intentional and unintentional — in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., between 2011 and 2013.
In the U.S. as a whole, there were nearly 193,000 deaths from injuries per year, and about 58 deaths per 100,000 people yearly, according to the report. In West Virginia, there were about 98 deaths from injuries per 100,000 people.
Other states with high death rates from injuries include New Mexico (92.7 deaths per 100,000 people), Oklahoma (88.4 deaths per 100,000 people) and Montana (85.1 deaths per 100,000 people).
On the other end of the spectrum, New York had about 40 deaths from injuries per 100,000 people, followed by Massachusetts (42.9 deaths per 100,000 people), New Jersey (44 deaths per 100,000 people) and California (44.6 deaths per 100,000 people.)
During the study period, death rates from injuries increased in 17 states, decreased in nine states and remained stable in 24. [U.S. Injury Death Rates: Full State Rankings]
Although everyone can take steps to stay safe, studies show that public health strategies — such as legal requirements for seat belts, child-safety seats, bike helmets and sobriety checkpoints — can save lives, according to the report, from the Trust for America's Health, a nonprofit health advocacy organization. The report makes a number of recommendations for policies to prevent deaths from injuries.
"Injuries are not just acts of fate. Research shows they are pretty predictable and preventable," Jeffrey Levi, executive director of TFAH, said in a news conference today (June 17). "This report illustrates how evidence-based strategies can actually help prevent and reduce" injuries and violence, Levi said.
Success with public health policies and education campaigns to prevent injuries "can help give Americans the tools they need to stay safe and protect their families," Levi said.
Particularly concerning are deaths from injuries that occur during drug overdoses, which have more than doubled over the past 14 years, and now account for 44,000 deaths in the United States yearly, the report said. About half of these are related to prescription drug overdoses. In 36 states, there are now more deaths from drug overdoses than there are from car crashes, according to the report.
The report recommends that states mandate the use of Prescription Drug Monitoring Program systems, which are databases that doctors use to record and track patients' prescriptions. These can help identify patients who "doctor shop" for prescription drugs, according to the report.
The researchers also recommend increasing access to substance abuse treatment programs, and making "rescue drugs" such as naloxone, which is used to treat heroin overdoses, more widely available.
The report also scored each state, on a scale from 0 to 10, based on 10 criteria that are considered important for preventing injuries and violence, such whether the state had seat-belt laws, required that children wear bicycle helmets or that convicted drunk drivers use ignition interlocks (which use a breath-alcohol test before a car can start), and required prescription drug monitoring programs for some health care providers.
Only one state, New York, scored a 9 out of 10. Twenty-nine states scored 5 points or lower, and four sates (Florida, Iowa, Missouri and Montana) scored just 2 points.
"This report provides state leaders and policymakers with the information needed to make evidence-based decisions to not only save lives, but also save state and taxpayers' money," said Amber Williams, executive director of the Safe States Alliance. "The average injury-related death in the U.S. costs over $1 million in medical costs and lost wages. Preventing these injuries will allow for investments in other critical areas including education and infrastructure."
TFAH conducted the report with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which funds health research.
Sign up for the Live Science daily newsletter now
Get the world’s most fascinating discoveries delivered straight to your inbox.
Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.