What the Leading Cause of Death Is in the United States and How to Avoid It

When you look at the different reports on the news, people talk about cancer, heart disease, and other serious illnesses. While these are important and we need scientific studies to figure out how to treat them better, these illnesses are not the leading cause of death in the United States. In fact, the leading cause of death in this country is not an illness at all but it is completely avoidable.

Leading Cause of Death: Unintentional Injury

When it comes to fears people have about how they will die, many people are afraid of dying in a plane crash. In actuality, you are more likely to die from a lightning strike, dog attack, bee sting, and choking on food than in a plane crash. The leading cause of death for people in the United States between the ages of 1 and 44 is unintentional injury. In the simplest of terms, the majority of deaths in the US come from accidents. In 2016, there were 61,749 people that died from unintentional injury, which is almost twice the amount of people that died from cancer and heart disease combined. Overall, the majority of these people died from motor vehicle accidents, fires, and unintentional poisonings.

In order to avoid the leading cause of death, we will help you to avoid these kinds of accidents. Most unintentional poisonings and fires happen in the home, and of course, motor vehicle accidents happen on the road. Here are things you can do to keep you and your family safer.

texting and driving, leading cause of death, unintentional injury, United States

Be Safe at Home

The two most common accidents in the home that contribute to this country’s leading cause of death are fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. In 2016, there were 364,000 residential fires. From all of those fires, 2,775 people died, and 11,025 people suffered injuries. One of the best things you can do to avoid this tragedy is to install smoke alarms throughout your home. You should place smoke alarms in every room, outside every sleeping area, and within every level of the home, including the basement. If your smoke alarms have removable batteries, replace the batteries every year. If your smoke alarm has built-in batteries, they should be fine for 10 years. You should also keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen because that is where most fires occur.

Along with fire alarms, you should also have carbon monoxide detectors in your home. Carbon monoxide is a transparent, odorless gas that is dangerous—and even deadly—in enclosed spaces like your home. This gas comes from burning fuel in cars and trucks, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, and furnaces. The best way to avoid this is to make sure all your indoor appliances work properly and do not leak. You should also only use outdoor appliances outside. The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to the flu, including dizziness, weakness, nausea, and vomiting.

Be Safe on the Road

The other part of the leading cause of death in the United States involves motor vehicle and bike accidents. Every year, over 32,000 people die, and over 2 million people are injured in motor vehicle accidents. Additionally, 840 bicyclists died in motor vehicle accidents in 2016. To prevent injuries and death, the CDC recommends that children remain in the back seat of the vehicle in a rear-facing seat until they are two years old. They should then stay in a front-facing seat until they are at least five years old. Children should not sit in the front seat until they are 13 years old.

This also should not need to be addressed, but distracted driving is a leading cause of motor vehicle accidents. This means that there should be absolutely no texting while driving, and many states have implemented laws that prevent using your phone at all. Just glancing at your phone allows you to essentially travel with your eyes closed. If your phone is a source of distraction for you, place it in the glovebox, a bag, or anywhere else where you will not be tempted to look at it. This is more than just about texting though because any distraction that takes your eyes off of the road is dangerous.


The leading cause of death in the United States is unintentional injury, meaning that most people die in some sort of accident. Taking a closer look, most of these unintentional injuries come from house fires, unintentional poisonings, and motor vehicle accidents. There are several little things that you can do to keep yourself safe and prevent unnecessary accidents. If we are more aware and more vigilant, we can keep tragedies at bay.

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Lacey Jolley

I love exploring, experiencing new places, and eating good food! I'm amazed every day at how well the Earth provides for us, and I want to return the favor. I hope to help others learn how we can make our world a better, cleaner place.

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