Age and Cause

The graph below depicts U.S. deaths and death rates per 100,000 population for the six leading causes of unintentional injury-related deaths in 2021 by age, through age 99. Additional years of data are also available (see Using the Charts and Tables).

  • Chart
  • Data Table
How to Use Injury Facts® Charts and Tables

The Six Leading Causes of Death

caused by unintentional injury in 2021

#1: Poisoning: 102,001 deaths


  • Average of 30.7 deaths per 100,000 population
  • Rate increased steadily from about age 15 to its peak of 62.6 at age 39
  • Leading cause of preventable death for all ages combined for the ninth consecutive year
  • Leading cause of preventable death for every age from 22 to 68
  • Largely due to the opioid epidemic affecting millions of people in the United States
  • On an average day, 208 people die from preventable poisonings due to opioid drugs


#2: Motor-vehicle crashes: 46,980 deaths


  • Average rate of 14.2 deaths per 100,000 population
  • Death rate peaks at 21.9 for 23-year-olds and again at 26.7 for 85- and 86-year-olds
  • Leading cause of preventable death for every age from 4 to 21
  • Second leading cause of preventable death for every age from 22 to 67


#3: Falls: 44,686 deaths


  • Average rate of 13.5 deaths per 100,000 population
  • Beginning at about age 67, the death rate from falls increased dramatically
  • Surpassing the number of motor-vehicle and poisoning deaths at age 69 and remained higher throughout the lifespan, peaking at age 90
  • Death rate peaked at age 99, with a rate of 736.0 per 100,000 population


#4: Choking: 5,325 deaths


  • Average rate of 1.6 deaths per 100,000 population
  • Death rates due to choking on inhaled or ingested food or other objects were quite low for most ages
  • Rates rose rapidly beginning at about age 71


#5: Drowning: 4,337 deaths


  • Average rate of 1.3 deaths per 100,000 population
  • While relatively stable and low for all ages, the death rates for drowning showed peaks in the first few years of life and again at some very old ages
  • Leading cause of preventable death from age 1 through 3


#6: Fire, Flames, or Smoke: 3,389 deaths


  • Average rate of 1.0 death per 100,000 population
  • Slightly elevated at very young ages; death rate peaked at age 95, with a rate of 8.2 per 100,000 population

Among infants younger than 1, mechanical suffocation was the leading cause of preventable-injury death, followed by motor-vehicle incidents. Drowning deaths were the leading cause of death from 1 to 3 years of age, closely followed by motor-vehicle.