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The Leading Cause of Death Among Children and Adolescents [infographic]

Posted on March 01, 2017

According to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), accidents (unintentional injuries) are the leading cause of death for victims under 24 years of age. Many of these fatal accidents are caused by the negligent, or sometimes intentional, acts of another person. When this is the case, responsible parties can be held liable for the damages caused, and families of victims can receive compensation to help cover the costs associated with their loss.

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Over 12,000 young people lose their lives in accidents in the United States every year. The National Vital Statistics Reports reveal that just under one-third (32.4 percent) of deaths among children between the ages of 1 and 9 are caused by unintentional injuries. For victims between the ages of 10 and 24, that number jumps to 40.7 percent, followed by suicide (15 percent) and homicide (14.9 percent). Some of the most common types of fatal injuries among America’s youth are caused by:

Motor Vehicle-Related Accidents

For children and adolescents under the age of 19, incidents related to motor vehicles cause the most deaths overall. The highest death rates were among victims who were passengers or drivers in motor vehicles, but there are also a substantial number of fatalities for pedestrians and cyclists involved in traffic accidents. The CDC reports that in 2014 alone there were 2,270 victims between the ages of 16 and 19 who were killed in motor vehicle-related crashes. This means that about six teens lost their lives to motor vehicle accidents every day that year. Teen drivers are about three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than drivers who are 20 years of age or older. Inexperience, driver distraction, and driving under the influence are the main causes of fatal crashes involving teens.


Drowning is the most common cause of unintentional death among children between the ages of 1 and 4, accounting for 31 percent of fatalities in that age group. It is also the second-leading cause among children under 14. For kids who are older than 14 years of age, drowning causes about 7 percent of unintentional deaths.

Drowning can happen anywhere there is water, including bathtubs, streams, and even buckets. For victims under 4 years of age, most drown in home swimming pools. However, natural-water settings like lakes, rivers, and oceans, are the location of about 57 percent of fatal drownings among victims 15 and older. Some of the main causes of childhood drowning include lack of supervision, lack of barriers such as fences and secured gates, lack of swimming ability, and failure to wear life jackets.


Each day in the United States, more than 300 children 19 and under are treated in emergency medical facilities for poisoning, and two of those victims lose their lives. About 15 percent of unintentional fatal injuries among kids are caused by poisoning. Strong chemicals with warning labels aren’t the only culprits. In many cases, medications, household cleaners, alcoholic beverages, and other everyday products in the home or at daycare cause poisoning as well. Perhaps surprisingly, children 15 years of age and older are more than five times more likely to die from accidental poisoning.


Unintentional suffocation is responsible for approximately two-thirds of injury deaths among children under one year of age. In fact, more than 85 percent of accidental suffocation incidents happen to children in the first six months of life. Bulky bedding, large stuffed toys, and crib bumpers are often causes of suffocation among infants.


More than 200 children under the age of 17 die each year due to choking.Young children are at the highest risk because they are often curious and will sometimes put large pieces of food or small objects in their mouths. Uninflated balloons are choking hazards among young children, as are buttons, marbles, and toys with small pieces.

Accidental Shootings

Recent studies reveal that there are far more minors killed by accidental shootings every year in the United States than what is reported by the CDC. In 2014, the CDC reported just 74 child victims of accidental firearm discharges, while USA TODAY and the AP counted a whopping 113. Although gun safety advocates continually push for stricter laws that require guns to be kept unloaded and locked up, supporters of gun rights claim that such measures make guns less accessible in emergencies.

While unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death among children and adolescents, most serious child injuries that cause death can be prevented. To help reduce the risk for serious accidents that take the lives of children and adolescents, parents and caregivers should familiarize themselves with the hazards encountered by today’s youth and take the necessary precautions to ensure their children’s safety.