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 Unintentional Injury Death Data Trends for Years 2000-2010   DS 13-13000


Unintentional injuries are a subset of a larger category that represents all injuries referred to as “external causes of injury” based on the International Classification of Disease, Tenth Edition codes (ICD-10).  The external ICD-10 codes are two-dimensional resulting in codes that indicate both the injury intent (such as unintentional, assault/homicide, intentional/self-harm) and the mechanism or cause (e.g. fall, burn, poison) of injury.  Other subset categories within “external causes of injury” include assault (homicide), intentional self-harm (suicide), undetermined, legal intervention or operation of war.1   In 2010, unintentional injury deaths represented 62.3 percent of all injuries deaths in California followed by intentional self-harm (suicide) 23.6 percent, assault (homicide) 11.7 percent, undetermined intent 1.8 percent, and other less than 1.0 percent.2 This report examines unintentional injury deaths from 2000 through 2010.

Unintentional injury deaths result from a variety of causes such as motor vehicle traffic crashes, falls, firearms, drownings, suffocations, bites, stings, sports/recreational activities, natural disasters, fires or burns, and poisonings.  From 2000 to 2010, California’s top three fatal unintentional injuries include motor vehicle traffic crashes (36.2 percent), poisoning and exposure to noxious substances (including drugs and other substances) (26.7 percent), and falls (16.2 percent).  These three causes totaled 79.1 percent of all unintentional injury deaths.

Unintentional injury deaths have consistently ranked among the leading causes of death for the United States and California.  In 2010, unintentional injuries ranked fifth nationally and sixth in California.2,3  During the same time period, unintentional injuries ranked first nationally as the leading cause of death for those 1 to 44 years old.4  Regardless of age, race, or economic status, unintentional injuries affects everyone, although differences do exist.5 

Males account for more unintentional injury deaths than females.  California’s 2010 data was used to identify the differences between unintentional injury causes by age groups.  Drowning was the most common unintentional injury cause of death for those aged 1 to 4.  Motor vehicle traffic crashes were the most frequent unintentional injury deaths for those aged 5 to 24.  Poisonings (including drugs and other substances) were the most common unintentional injury death for people aged 25 to 64.  Falls were the most prevalent unintentional injury cause of death for individuals over 65.2

Most unintentional injuries are preventable and predictable -- they are not “accidents.” 6   The word accident implies the events are inevitable and unavoidable.7   Like diseases, injuries are preventable if preventative strategies are in place.  Preventative strategies such as minimum age drinking requirements, seatbelt and helmet laws, smoke alarms, tai chi and other exercise programs for older adults, and other safety awareness campaigns have saved lives.5

Due to the prevalence of unintentional injury deaths in this country, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has established Healthy People 2020 objectives that pertain to all injuries.  HHS has established Healthy People 2020 Objective IVP—11 to reduce unintentional injuries age-adjusted death rate to no more than 36.0 per 100,000 population.8  The definition of unintentional injuries used for the Healthy People Objective IVP—11 and the report’s content was based on the ICD-10 codes V01-X59, Y85-Y86.


Read More:
At a Glance
California Total Population
Male and Female Populations
Race/Ethnicity Group Differences
Sex Differences Within Race/Ethnicity
County of Residence Populations
Tables (PDF)Opens a new browser window.
Technical Notes
Vital Statistics Query System

Helpful Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
  Injury and Violence Prevention and Control
  Protect the Ones You Love: Child Injuries are Preventable

California Department of Public Health, EpiCenter

National Safety Council


Last modified on: 1/26/2016 10:07 AM