Death rates from unintentional injuries of children from birth to age 19 fell by nearly 30% in the United States from 2000 through 2009, largely because of a 41% drop in deaths in car crashes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday. That amounts to more than 11,000 children saved during the decade, Dr. Ileana Arias, principal deputy director of the CDC, said in a news conference. "The rate is among the worst of all high-income countries," she said, and the real shame is that most of the deaths "are predictable and preventable."
Agency officials fear it may be difficult to lower the rate further, however, because of sharp increases in two areas: a 91% increase in poisoning deaths among teenagers during the period -- primarily from prescription drug abuse -- and a 54% increase in suffocation deaths among infants. Prescription drug poisonings, whether the drugs are stolen from parents' medicine cabinets or purchased on the street, appear to be increasingly replacing marijuana as a "gateway drug" that leads to the abuse of harder drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, added Dr. Julie Gilchrist, a medical epidemiologist in the CDC's Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention.
Nearly 9,000 infants, children and teenagers died of accidental injuries in 2009, about one every hour, according to the report. That represents about 1 in every 5 childhood deaths. And for every accidental death, there were 25 hospitalizations and 925 visits to the emergency room. Every 4 seconds, a child is treated for injury in an ER. In 2005, the last year for which figures are available, those injuries cost nearly $11.5 billion in medical expenses.