Special Report

The States With the Most Deadly Accidents

4. Montana
> Age-adjusted accidental deaths per 100,000:
57.4
> Pct. population using mind-altering drugs almost daily: 17.7 (18th lowest)
> Premature death (years of potential life lost prior to age 75 per 100,000): 7,480 (20th highest)
> Leading cause of accidental death: Motor vehicle accidents

There were about 23 motor vehicle deaths per 100,000 Montana residents, the highest such rate nationwide and the leading cause of accidental deaths in the state. Montana is one of only a few states without required vehicle emission or periodic safety inspections, which may result in relatively more unsafe vehicles. Montana is also a very large state with a relatively small population, which likely increases travel times for many residents. Together with severe driving conditions during Montana’s extreme winter months, the lack of inspections and the long driving times likely drove the state’s high number of motor vehicle accidents. Falling was the second leading cause of accidental deaths in Montana, with a reported 12.6 falling deaths per 100,000 residents, the ninth highest such rate in the country.

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3. New Mexico
> Age-adjusted accidental deaths per 100,000:
58.8
> Pct. population using mind-altering drugs almost daily: 18.4 (25th lowest)
> Premature death (years of potential life lost prior to age 75 per 100,000): 8,445 (10th highest)
> Leading cause of accidental death: Poison

There were 21.5 poisoning deaths per 100,000 New Mexico residents, the second-highest such rate nationwide and the largest contributor to accidental deaths in the state. Drug poisoning, including alcohol, accounted for most of these deaths. The approximately 3.2 non-drug deaths, such as ingesting household chemicals by mistake, accounted for the remainder and was the second-highest non-drug-related poisoning death rate nationwide. The prevalence of drug use in the state may be tied to poor socio-economic factors. Nearly 19% of residents did not have health insurance, a higher share than in all but four states. Also, a typical household earned $43,872 in 2013, nearly the lowest median household income nationwide. In addition to the high rate of accidental deaths, New Mexico’s violent crime rate of 597 per 100,000 people was nearly the highest in the country.

2. Oklahoma
> Age-adjusted accidental deaths per 100,000:
62.6
> Pct. population using mind-altering drugs almost daily: 21.5 (13th highest)
> Premature death (years of potential life lost prior to age 75 per 100,000): 9,654 (5th highest)
> Leading cause of accidental death: Poison

More than 19 poison-related fatalities per 100,000 people in Oklahoma were reported, the sixth highest poison death rate in the country. As in other states, drugs accounted for the majority of poison deaths. Also, like most other states with high rates of accidental drug deaths, 21.5% of Oklahoma residents reported near-daily drug use to Gallup, one of the higher percentages compared with other states. Car accidents caused roughly 19 deaths per 100,000 Oklahoma residents, trailing only poison as the largest contributor to the state’s accidental death rate, and it was the fourth highest such rate nationwide.

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1. West Virginia
> Age-adjusted accidental deaths per 100,000:
71.5
> Pct. population using mind-altering drugs almost daily: 28.1 (the highest)
> Premature death (years of potential life lost prior to age 75 per 100,000): 10,159 (2nd highest)
> Leading cause of accidental death: Poison

There were more than 71 unintentional deaths per 100,000 people in West Virginia, by far the highest accidental death rate nationwide. Poison accounted for more than 31 accidental deaths per 100,000 people in the state, the highest rate in the country and nearly 10 percentage points higher than New Mexico’s second-place poison death rate. Nearly all poison deaths in West Virginia were drug related. In a recent Gallup survey, more than 28% of state residents reported using mind-altering drugs to relax nearly every day, the highest proportion in the nation. Daily mind-altering drug use is not necessarily linked to deaths, but the high percentage is inline with the incidence of drug overdoses in the state, including what state officials are calling a heroin epidemic. In response to the growing problem, lawmakers passed a bill in April that aims to provide counselling and medication for addicts.