Preventable Deaths Ranked by State

Nancy Grover

Itasca, IL ( – California has the lowest rate of preventable deaths, while West Virginia has the highest. In both states, poisonings are the leading cause. Those are among the latest facts included in the National Safety Council’s ranking of states based on unintentional, preventable deaths.

Poisonings were the main cause of unintentional deaths in most states on the list and were generally related to drug overdoses. Motor vehicle accidents were a top cause in some states. In Maryland, which had the 4th lowest preventable death rate, falls were the leading cause.

Preventable — or accidental — deaths are the third leading cause of death in the U.S., the NSC said. As the organization wraps up its observation of National Safety Month, it is urging the adoption of prevention strategies “particularly because preventable deaths tend to be higher in the second half of each year than the first,” according to its statement.

The NSC’s Prescription Nation recommends the following steps to address drug overdoses:

  • Mandate prescriber education
  • Implement prescribing guidelines
  • Integrate prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) into clinical settings
  • Improve data collection and sharing
  • Treat opioid overdose by increasing access to naloxone
  • Increase availability of opioid use disorder treatment, including medication-assisted treatment

The NSC’s 2018 Road to Zero report targets motor vehicle crashes by enforcing and strengthening laws that counter threats to roadway safety, such as distracted driving, speeding and substance abuse.

“Prioritize safety by adopting a safe systems approach and creating a positive safety culture,” the statement says.

“Someone dies every three minutes in the United States because of something we know how to prevent,” said Lorraine M. Martin, the NSC’s President and CEO. “Understanding the leading causes of preventable death in your state allows you to advocate for better policies and protections, so all residents can lead their best, fullest lives.”

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