Car Crashes No Longer Leading Cause of Trauma-Related Deaths in U.S., Study Suggests

According to a new study, firearms surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of trauma-related deaths in the United States. The study reveals that gun-related deaths took 1.44 million years of potential life, overtaking car crashes, with 1.37 million years of potential lost life.

Where did the study get this information? And are gun-related deaths still the leading cause of death in the U.S. today?

CNN recently reported that firearms are the leading cause of trauma-related deaths in the United States. A study published this past February in the journal of Trauma Surgery & Acute Care Open used data between 2009 and 2018 from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Data from 2018 was the most recent available.

Researchers used a basic CDC formula to determine years of potential life lost. They started with a standard age of 80 and subtracted the age of death from it. That represents the current U.S. life expectancy of 78.7 years and then adds any differences.

Researchers explained that the study’s data showed that access to firearms significantly increased the number of deaths from those weapons. Typically, they were folks who demanded access to guns citing the right to bear arms to prevent injury and to defend against aggressors.

There were other interesting insights. Most of the gun deaths were suicides. Suicides by firearm went from less than 19,000 in 2009 to more than 24,000 in 2018. 

A spike in fatal car crashes in 2021?

Car accident deaths
A deadly car accident on October 6, 2019, in Winthrop, Massachusetts | Mary Schwalm/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images

According to an NHTSA study, 2021 saw a sharp rise in fatal car crashes. During the first nine months of 2021, an estimated 31,720 people died in car crashes in the United States. The death rate rose 12% from 2020, when 28,325 people died in car crashes during the same period. It drew the attention of U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, who declared it a national crisis.

Are car crashes still the leading cause of death in the U.S.?

Not necessarily. The study on firearm-related deaths uses data that’s a few years old. However, there is reason to believe that rate has continued to climb. CNN reported last year that 2021 was on its way to being one of the worst gun violence years in decades. 

The Gun Violence Archive reported that from January 1 to September 15 last year, 14,516 people died from gun violence in the United States. That was up 9% from the same time frame in 2020. A good portion of that was from 498 mass shootings across the nation. That’s an average of 1.92 mass shootings per day.

How to avoid car crashes

Because collisions are among the leading causes of trauma-related death in the U.S., it’s crucial to think about car safety first when you’re driving.

Avoid driving aggressively or driving while distracted. That way, you’re in a much better place mentally to deal with other motorists’ bad driving habits. Always leave plenty of space between you and the vehicle in front of you. In addition, keeping your doors locked and wearing your seatbelt can help protect you from being thrown from your car during a crash.

Furthermore, awareness is vital. Pay attention to your surroundings, monitor your mirrors, and keep track of conditions 30 seconds ahead of you. And watch for cyclists, pedestrians, and pets on your travels.

If you encounter someone driving aggressively or dangerously, don’t engage. Avoid that person or take the next exit when safe to do so. 

Finally, don’t expect other drivers to think like you do, and don’t count on them to look out for you. Look after yourself, your passengers, and your vehicle first. 

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