What Are the Odds of Dying From…

Odds of Dying

It might seem a bit morbid, but human nature leads us to contemplate our demise. We sometimes wonder, “What are my odds of dying from…”?

Are you more likely to be killed in a car crash or shot to death by an assailant? Is it really that rare to be struck by lightning? Here at the National Safety Council, we get those questions a lot.

So, we put together the Odds of Dying chart below. Keep in mind these odds are statistical averages over the entire U.S. population and do not necessarily reflect the chances of death for a particular person from a particular external cause. Odds of dying are affected by an individual’s activities, occupation, and where he or she lives and drives, among other things.

That being said, if the odds of dying from all possible causes are 1 in 1, here are the lifetime odds of death for selected causes, from most likely to least:

Cause of Death Odds of Dying
Heart Disease and Cancer 1 in 7
Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease 1 in 28
Intentional Self-harm 1 in 95
Unintentional Poisoning by and Exposure to Noxious Substances 1 in 96
Motor Vehicle Crash 1 in 114
Fall 1 in 127
Assault by Firearm 1 in 370
Car Occupant 1 in 645
Pedestrian Incident 1 in 647
Motorcycle Rider Incident 1 in 985
Unintentional Drowning and Submersion 1 in 1,188
Exposure to Fire, Flames or Smoke 1 in 1,498
Choking from Inhalation and Ingestion of Food 1 in 3,461
Pedacyclist Incident 1 in 4,486
Firearms Discharge 1 in 6,905
Air and Space Transport Incidents 1 in 9,821
Exposure to Electric Current, Radiation, Temperature and Pressure 1 in 15,212
Exposure to Excessive Natural Heat 1 in 16,584
Contact with Sharp Objects 1 in 38,174
Contact with Heat and Hot Substances 1 in 56,992
Contact with Hornets, Wasps and Bees 1 in 63,225
Cataclysmic Storm 1 in 66,335
Being Bitten or Struck by a Dog 1 in 112,400
Legal Execution 1 in 119,012
Lightning Strike 1 in 161,856
Chance of Winning The Lottery¹ 1 in 175,000,000

Unintentional Poisoning by and Exposure to Noxious Substances

Prescription Drug Abuse Epidemic; Painkillers Driving Addiction, Overdose

Every day, 60 people die from opioid pain medications. That’s 22,000 people every year.

Opioids are being overprescribed. And it is not children reaching in medicine cabinets who have made drug poisoning the #1 cause of unintentional death in the United States. Adults have been prescribed opioids by doctors and subsequently become addicted or move from pills to heroin.

Perhaps even more alarming: 70% of people who have abused prescription painkillers reported getting them from friends or relatives. Most people don’t know that sharing opioids is a felony.

Where do Opioids Come From and What is the Cost?

  • Like heroin, opioid painkillers come from the poppy plant; opioids contain morphine and codeine
  • In 2010, more than 400,000 emergency room visits were made related to prescription painkillers
  • In 2006, the estimated total cost in the United States of nonmedical use of prescription opioids was $53.4 billion, of which $42 billion (79%) was attributable to lost productivity
  • Four out of five new heroin users started by misusing prescription painkillers
  • Research indicates 4% to 6% of prescription painkiller abusers will transition to heroin use


Ending Distracted Driving is Everyone’s Responsibility

Thousands have Died in Crashes Involving Cell Phone Use

Many distractions exist while driving, but cell phones are a top distraction because so many drivers use them for long periods of time each day. Almost everyone has seen a driver distracted by a cell phone, but when you are the one distracted, you often don’t realize that driver is you.

New technology in vehicles is causing us to become more distracted behind the wheel than ever before. Fifty-three percent of drivers believe if manufacturers put “infotainment” dashboards and hands-free technology in vehicles, they must be safe. And, with some state laws focusing on handheld bans, many drivers honestly believe they are making the safe choice by using a hands-free device. But in fact, these technologies distract our brains even long after you’ve used them.

Make no mistake: This multitasking technology is about convenience, not safety.

Motor Vehicle Deaths Estimated to be Highest in Nine Years

​For the first time in nearly a decade, preliminary data from the National Safety Council estimates that as many as 40,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2016. That marks a 6% increase over 2015 and a 14% increase over 2014 – the most dramatic two-year escalation in 53 years. ​

An estimated 4.6 million roadway users were injured seriously enough to require medical attention, a 7% increase over 2015. This means 2016 may have been the deadliest year on the roads since 2007. Estimated cost to society was $432 billion.

NSC Survey Offers Insight Into What Drivers are Doing

An NSC survey released Feb. 15 provides a glimpse at the risky things drivers are doing. Although 83% of drivers surveyed believe driving is a safety concern, a startling number say they are comfortable speeding (64%), texting either manually or through voice controls (47%), driving while impaired by marijuana (13%) or driving after they feel they’ve had too much alcohol (10%).

Motor vehicle fatality estimates are subject to slight increases and decreases as data mature. NSC uses data from the National Center for Health Statistics, an arm of the CDC, so deaths occurring within 100 days of the crash and on public and private roadways – such as parking lots and driveways – are included in the estimates.

“Our complacency is killing us. Americans believe there is nothing we can do to stop crashes from happening, but that isn’t true,” said NSC President and CEO Deborah A.P. Hersman. “The U.S. lags the rest of the developed world in addressing highway fatalities. We know what needs to be done; we just haven’t done it.”

NSC is Calling for Life-saving Measures

NSC is calling for immediate implementation of life-saving measures that would set the nation on a road to zero deaths:

  • Mandate ignition interlocks for convicted drunk drivers and better educationabout the nature of impairment and when it begins
  • Install and use automated enforcement techniques to catch speeders
  • Extend laws banning all cell phone use – including hands-free – to all drivers, not just teens; upgrade enforcement from secondary to primary in states with existing bans
  • Upgrade seat belt laws from secondary to primary enforcement and extend restraint laws to every passenger in every seating position in all kinds of vehicles
  • Adopt a three-tiered licensing system for all new drivers under 21 – not just those under 18
  • Standardize and accelerate into the fleet automotive safety technologies with life-saving potential, including blind-spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and adaptive headlights
  • Pass or reinstate motorcycle helmet laws
  • Adopt comprehensive programs for pedestrian safety


¹ Chance of Winning The Lottery – multiply the 5,006,386 by 35 and see that there are 175,223,510 possible Powerball combinations. For simplicity, let’s be generous and round off to an even 175,000,000. Your chance of winning the lottery on a single ticket is one in 175 million

Source: National Safety Council estimates based on data from National Center for Health Statistics–Mortality Data, as compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program. Deaths are classified on the basis of the World Health Organization’s The International Classification of Diseases (ICD). For additional mortality figures, and estimated one-year and lifetime odds, see Injury Facts® 2017 Edition, pages 40-43.


Accidental Deaths Hit Highest Number in Recorded U.S. History

For years, the United States has accepted unintentional injuries as an unavoidable reality. These data show us that our collective complacency costs us 466 lives every day. The truth is, there is no such thing as an accident. We know what to do to save lives, but as a nation, we have not consistently prioritized safety at work, at home and on the road.

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