10 States with the Highest Rates of Injury-Related Deaths

Injuries are the leading cause of death for people ages 1 to 44, and injury-related deaths are on the rise in 17 of the nation's 50 states. These 10 states reported the highest rates of injury-related deaths.

Injuries are the leading cause of death for people ages 1 to 44, and injury-related deaths are on the rise in 17 of the nation’s 50 states. According to a report by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Trust for America’s Health, nationally 193,000 people die each year from injuries ranging from motor vehicle crashes to drug overdoses to falls.

In addition to the state-by-state numbers reported, the study also gives 10 key indicators of leading evidence-based strategies to reduce injury-related deaths. No state, nor Washington DC, has implemented all 10 strategies, and only New York has implemented nine of the 10. Florida, Missouri, Iowa, and Montana all have implemented just two of the recommended preventative measures.

“Injuries are not just acts of fate. Research shows they are pretty predictable and preventable,” said Jeffrey Levi, PhD, executive director of TFAH. “This report illustrates how evidence-based strategies can actually help prevent and reduce motor vehicle crashes, head injuries, fires, falls, homicide, suicide, assaults, sexual violence, child abuse, drug misuse, overdoses and more. It’s not rocket science, but it does require common sense and investment in good public health practice.”

We take a look at the states with the highest rates of injury-related deaths per 100,000 people. The national rate, for comparison, is 58.4 deaths per 100,000 people.

“Rates in Arkansas remained stable over the past four years for injury deaths, which includes drug overdoses, motor vehicle crashes, homicides and others,” reads The Facts Hurt: Arkansas webpage. The state has implemented five of the 10 recommended strategies, but measures not implemented include mandatory bicycle helmets for children or graduated drivers’ licenses for teenagers.

9. Tennessee — 76.7 deaths per 100,000 people

Like Arkansas, Tennessee’s injury-related deaths have remained stable in the past four years. But unlike Arkansas, Tennessee is one of the 36 states where drug overdose has become the leading cause of injury death. The rate of overdose deaths in Tennessee (17.7 per 100,000) is 11th highest in the nation. The Volunteer State does have seven of the 10 strategies implemented.

8. Mississippi — 81 deaths per 100,000 people

Mississippi ranks ninth-lowest among all states and DC for drug overdose deaths, but that does not keep the southern state out of the overall top 10. Of the 10 strategies listed, Mississippi met only four of the criteria, including primary seat belt laws and a prescription drug monitoring program.

7. Kentucky — 81.7 deaths per 100,000 people

Kentucky has seen a significant increase in injury-related deaths, primarily from drug overdoses. Kentucky has the second-highest rate of drug related deaths in the United States, at a rate of 24.6 per 100,000 people. Overdose deaths in the US have more than doubled in the past 14 years, resulting in 44,000 annually nationwide.

6. Alaska — 83.5 deaths per 100,000 people

Alaska has continually reduced occupation-related fatalities since the 1990s, despite the dangers depicted in popular “reality” television shows based there. Overall, though, the state has seen its injury-related deaths remain stable. Like many of the other states on this list, drug overdose has become the leading cause of death by injury.

5. Wyoming — 84.6 deaths per 100,000 people

From 2008-2013, Wyoming averaged one occupational fatality every 12 days, putting it second in the nation in average worker deaths. Injuries from automobile accidents accounted for the highest amount in 2014, and Wyoming doesn’t have primary seat belt laws nor ignition locks for convicted drunk drivers.

4. Montana — 85.1 deaths per 100,000 people

Montana is one of four states, along with Iowa, Missouri, and Florida, that has not implemented eight out of the 10 recommended strategies. Montana does a good job of preventing homicide and child abuse, but struggles with preventing falls and monitoring prescription drug use.

3. Oklahoma — 88.4 deaths per 100,000 people

Twenty out of every 100,000 people in Oklahoma die from a drug overdose, sixth-highest in the nation. The state also ranks ninth nationally in overdose deaths involving opioid pain relievers, and first in all age categories for consumption of nonmedical pain relievers.

2. New Mexico — 92.7 deaths per 100,000 people

In 2014, 260 people died in New Mexico from prescription drug overdose, prompting state officials to apply for, and receive, federal funding to reach high-risk communities. The rate of drug overdose deaths is second highest in the nation, at a rate of 24.6 deaths per 100,000 people.

1. West Virginia — 97.9 deaths per 100,000 people

West Virginia’s rate of injury-related deaths has been on the rise, and is currently more than double the rate of the state with the lowest rate, New York (40.3 deaths per 100,000). The state also has the highest rate in the nation of deaths attributed to drug overdose, at 33.5 deaths per 100,000. West Virginia also has a higher rate of driving deaths associated with impaired driving than the national average. The state has already implemented seven of ten recommended strategies to reducing the number of deaths caused by injuries.