Earlier this month, we told you that the U.S. traffic fatality rate for 2010 was the lowest in recorded history. All told, there were 32,885 deaths on American roads that year, or about 1.10 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled.
But for most of us, it's hard to put numbers like that in perspective. Yesterday, an article in the New York Times helped rectify the situation by pointing out that more Americans now die from poisoning than from auto accidents.
In 2008 (the most recent data available), around 41,000 people were poisoned in the U.S., while 37,261 were killed in car accidents. In fact, a chart from the National Center for Health Statistics points to a curiously inverse relationship between the number of traffic fatalities and the number of people poisoned.
That got us wondering: what other causes of death are more common than traffic fatalities? Quite a few, actually. Here are just a handful of CDC fatality stats from 2007 (in PDF form, if you like):
- Heart disease (still the biggest killer in the U.S.): 616,067
- Alzheimer's disease: 74,632
- Diabetes: 71,382
- Influenza and pneumonia: 52,717
- Suicide: 34,598*
At first glance, it may seem strange to focus so much attention on death during a holiday week. But for us, it's reassuring to know that now, when many folks are traveling over snowy, icy roads to see friends and family, the chances of them arriving safely at their destinations are better than ever.
We hope the rest of your holidays are happy, healthy, and above all, safe.
* If we want to compare apples to apples, there were technically 41,059 traffic fatalities in 2007 -- more than the number of suicides. Though suicide figures for subsequent years aren't available, the raw numbers have likely gotten much closer now, thanks to improvements in auto safety which have led to steep declines in the number of auto-related deaths.