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The 25 Most Common Causes of Death


#17: Bicycle accident
Odds of dying: 1 in 4,147
In 2009, 630 bicyclists were killed, and a whopping 51,000 were injured in accidents. Most of these deaths occurred in urban areas, where there are more cars and traffic congestion. The number one thing you can do to reduce your risk? Wear a helmet!


#16: ATV or off-road vehicle accident
Odds of dying: 1 in 3,579
In 2009, there were 376 reported ATV-related deaths and 131,900 emergency room visits. This is a steady decline from 2008, where there were 616 reported deaths and 135,100 emergency room visits. The reason ATV-related deaths have declined is thanks to rider safety education and parental supervision.


#15: Complications of medical and surgical care
Odds of dying: 1 in 1,523
According to the National Hospital Discharge Survey, 45 million surgeries were performed in 2007, so it's a good thing that only 1 in 1,523 people will die from medical or surgical complications. You are more than twice as likely to die from complications of medical and surgical care than in an ATV or off-road vehicle accident; the largest gap in odds on this list.


#14: Exposure to smoke, fire and flames
Odds of dying: 1 in 1,235
In a burning house or building, you are actually more likely to die from smoke inhalation than burning from flames or heat. People have about three minutes to get out of a burning structure before dying from smoke inhalation.


#13: Accidental drowning and submersion
Odds of dying: 1 in 1,073
In the U.S., there were 3,443 fatal unintentional drownings in 2007. Males were 3.7 times more likely to die from drowning than females, because they are more likely to engage in reckless behavior. Children under the age of 14 accounted for one-fifth of these deaths from drowning.


#12: Motorcycle accident
Odds of dying: 1 in 802
It's no surprise that motorcycle accidents are on this list. Riding a motorcycle is an infamously dangerous activity. The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) reports that 4,762 motorcycle deaths occurred in 2009, a 10 percent decline from 2008.


#11: Pedestrian accident
Odds of dying: 1 in 623
But trading two wheels for two feet is not any safer. Statistically, you are better off riding a motorcycle than walking on a busy street. The three U.S. cities with the most pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 residents every year are Atlanta, Ga., with 10.97, Detroit, Mich., with 10.31 and Los Angeles, Calif., with 7.64. Pedestrian fatalities are more likely to occur in large cities with heavy traffic.


#10: Assault by firearm
Odds of dying: 1 in 300
America is the gun violence capital of the world. According to FBI crime statistics, there were 9,146 murders by firearm in 2009. Like death by accidental gun discharge, death rates for assault by firearm in the U.S. are also disproportionate to similar countries. It has the highest rate of firearm deaths among 25 high-income nations and more disturbingly, the overall firearm-related death rate among U.S. children under age 15 is 12 times higher than the death rates of these 25 high-income nations combined.


#9: Exposure to narcotics and hallucinogens
Odds of dying: 1 in 289
Prescription opioid painkillers like Oxycontin and Percocet are now the most dangerous narcotics in America. Experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the University of North Carolina and Duke University Medical Center report that in 2007, there were more unintentional deaths from prescription opioid pain killers than overdose deaths from heroin and cocaine combined. Even alcohol, a substance well-known for its hazardous effects when consumed in large quantities, doesn't compare to the dangers that prescription opioids pose. The odds of dying from alcohol poisoning are 1 in 10,909.


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