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Unintentional Injuries: Definition, Statistics, Types, Goals & Various Programs

“Accidents happen all of a sudden!” Unintentional injuries, like accidents or sudden falls happen all of a sudden, out of the blue, without the intention to harm the person. These are the unintentional harmful acts which are listed among the leading causes of deaths in United States of America. In this current article, we will discuss about these unintentional injuries in a more detailed manner.

Unintentional Injuries

Definition of Unintentional Injuries:

Unintentional injuries can be defined as, “the harmful acts, which occur without any intention to harm the individual affected.” Unintentional injuries are a subset of all the major injuries that are categorized as “external cause injuries.” Unintentional injuries can be defined as certain events where:

  • The injury occurs in a fraction of seconds or in a very short period of time all of a sudden.
  • The harmful outcomes of the unintentional injury are not planned or intentional.
  • The outcome of the injury was because of the normal body functions or one of the forms of physical energy in the environment being blocked by external factors, such as drowning.[1]

Maybe at home or maybe at any other place outside; unintentional injuries like accidents, falls etc. can be sometimes life threatening. The most common unintentional injuries occur due to motor vehicle crashes, fires, falls, poisoning, drowning and aspirations. Most of the childhood injuries, which can be categorized in to the unintentional injuries can be prevented by following some simple steps. We will know about the preventive measures of unintentional injuries in our following array.

Unintentional Injury Vs Intentional Injury

  • Injuries can be categorized primarily into two groups; i.e. Intentional injuries and Unintentional injuries. The major difference between the unintentional injury and intentional injury is that the former one is unplanned/unintentional; and the latter one is pre-planned and with full intention of harming oneself or other individuals.
  • Motor vehicle crashes, accidental firearm discharges, sudden drowning, unintentional poisonings etc. are some of the unintentional injuries one might face on a day-to-day basis. However, intentionally pushing someone down the stairs or terrace, attempting suicide, etc. are categorized as intentional injuries.
  • About 2/3ds of all injury deaths noted in U.S every year comes under the unintentional injury category; while about one-third of the injury deaths are categorized under intentional injury.[2]

Some Data and Statistics Associated with Unintentional Injuries in US:

Let us take a look on some data and statistics associated with unintentional injuries in United States of America.

  • It is noted that in the year 2010, the unintentional injury deaths represented 62.3% of all the deaths caused due to injury in California.[3]
  • In California, from the year 2000 to the year 2010, the top three deadly unintentional injuries include: motor vehicle accidents (36%), poisoning and exposure to toxic substances (23%) and falls (15%).
  • The victims of unintentional injuries are more males than females.
  • It is known that the most common form of unintentional injury deaths were in those aged between 1 to 4 years and was due to drowning.
  • Motor vehicle accidents were the most common cause of unintentional injury death in those between the ages 6 to 24 years old.
  • From the age group of 24 to 64 years; it was noted that poisoning was the most common cause of unintentional injury death.[4]
  • Unintentional injury deaths due to falls were the most common types of unintentional injury deaths in people above 65 years.

Types of Unintentional Injuries in Childhood

  1. “Childhood is the most wonderful phase we would ever come across in our life!” It is so important to help our children keep safe and let them enjoy their childhood to their best. Isn’t it? And we all surely pay attention towards it. However, at times there are conditions when children meet with some kind of unintentional injuries that may also be serious.
  2. Unintentional injuries are listed one of the major types of childhood injuries, which can not only injure children, but also may cause childhood deaths. There are various ways through children can meet with unintentional childhood injuries. Some of the unintentional injuries in childhood are listed below:
  3. A baby, who has started crawling, can crawl down the stairs if he/ she is left alone or unseen even for some minutes.
  4. Young children can fall down from stairs, walls, trees etc. if they are not careful while playing without the supervision of any adult.
  5. Sometimes children may also get hurt unintentionally by any vehicle if they are playing on the roads or walking in the middle of the road.
  6. Drowning of a child in river, sea, well or any other deep water bodies can be categorized under unintentional injuries.
  7. Sometimes improper ventilation or no ventilation, gas leakage, excessive smoke can cause suffocation in young children and comes under unintentional injuries in childhood.

Likewise there are many other situations which can lead to unintentional childhood injuries. It is important to keep an eye on children and also make them know about the safety first rules, so that they can be cautious, wherever possible.[5]

A Detailed Note on “Accidents as Unintentional Injuries”

“Accidents can be also categorized under the unintentional injuries as we mentioned in our above paragraphs. In fact accidents are the number third cause of death in U.S., which is categorized under unintentional injury deaths. Accidents account for 1 in every 4 people treated in an emergency department in United States.[6]

There are various such unintentional injury deaths due to accidents which may include:

  • Car/Motor vehicle accidents.
  • Falls.
  • Fires.
  • Overdose of drugs etc.

It must be noted that such types of accidents or unintentional injury deaths from accidents can be prevented by following some precautions such as:

  • Don’t drive if you are feeling sleepy, nor drive with drug overdose or with excessive alcohol intake.
  • Make sure you are wearing seat belt while driving or sitting in your motor vehicle.
  • Make sure you maintain a limited speed while driving and obey the traffic rules.
  • Keep your home free from the tripping hazards that may cause falls, make sure your floors are dry and clean.
  • There must be smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home, which are in working condition.
  • Use handrail while climbing up or down the stairs.
  • Be sure you are wearing helmet and other safety gear while performing sports activities.
  • Learn swimming so that you can save yourself at times of need when you are drowning.

National Goals and Various Programs Associated with Prevention of Unintentional Injuries in USA:

Here in this section we will look at some of the crucial programs that work at preventing the unintentional injuries in USA.

Various goals set by the Federal Government through the Healthy People 2020 initiative; so as to reduce the unintentional injuries. Some of the goals are mentioned below.

  • To reduce suffocation deaths as an unintentional injury death among infants up to one year old from 22.5 per 100, 000 in 2007 to 20.3 deaths per 100, 000 by the year 2020.
  • Goals for reducing fatal and non-fatal unintentional injuries in general, prevent an increase in fatal and non-fatal posioning; reduce deaths and injuries due to motor vehicle accidents, fire and drowning.
  • There are various programs, which aim at preventing unintentional injuries in the United States of America.
  • The Bureau of Injury prevention, develops, implements and assesses the primary prevention programs.[7]
  • Annual trainings are also conducted by the bureau along with providing technical assistance to various community based organizations in order to better incorporate the injury prevention strategies in to their ongoing activities.
  • The NYSDOH co-ordinates a number of programs for reducing the morbidity and mortality linked with injuries.
  • There are also various programs, which aim at raising awareness about the causes of various unintentional injuries so as to help people prevent or reduce the adverse consequences.
  • The CFOI or Census for Occupational Injuries program collects verifiable information on occupational fatalities and releases the reports periodically; to be used by the health and safety professionals for developing strategies to prevent the unintentional injuries.[8]
  • Injuries, Illness and Fatalities programs helps in providing data linked with illness, injuries and fatalities among employees.
  • The (FACE) Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation Program is one more program, which is associated with prevention of unintentional injuries at workplace.[9]

Intentional Injuries in the Guise of Unintentional Injuries

Sometimes unintentional injuries can actually be intentional injuries, which look like unintentional injuries. For example, at times any abusive elder might have intentionally pushed a child from the stairs or pushed into the water or from the terrace, which might look like he or she has fallen down of own and unintentionally.

Likewise, someone may want to cause somebody harm by giving them poison or overdose of their regular medicine and it can “accidentally” get categorized as unintentional injury. So, it is difficult to properly categorize such injuries. However, strictly unintentional injuries can be prevented with the preventive steps mentioned above.

“Think well, do well, and live well. Injuries are common, but prevention can make them rare!”


Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:June 8, 2022

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