RICHMOND — Fewer children are dying from accidents in Virginia and across the country, according to reports issued by state officials and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The death rate from unintentional injuries for Virginians ages 19 and younger fell 45 percent from 2000 to 2009, new figures showed.
In 2000, Virginia had 14.5 accidental deaths for every 100,000 residents in that age group; by 2009, the rate had dropped to 7.9 deaths per 100,000 residents.
During that same time period, the national rate fell about 30 percent. Nationwide in 2009, 11 of every 100,000 Americans 19 or younger died from unintentional injuries.
“Key health indicators are showing that children are living safer, healthier lives in Virginia,” State Health Commissioner Karen Remley said in a statement. “However, more work is needed to ensure that all of our children are safe and are no longer at risk of losing their lives from avoidable injuries.”
Federal officials echoed that sentiment.
“Kids are safer from injuries today than ever before. In fact, the decrease in injury death rates in the past decade has resulted in more than 11,000 children’s lives being saved,” CDC Director Thomas Frieden said in a statement. “But we can do more. It’s tragic and unacceptable when we lose even one child to an avoidable injury.”
Accidental injuries remain the No. 1 cause of death among children in Virginia and nationwide.
In 2010, more than 165 Virginians 19 and younger died from accidents. Traffic accidents are the most common cause, followed by drowning, suffocation, poisoning and fires.
Across the U.S., more than 9,000 children died from unintentional injuries in 2009, the most recent national statistics.
Child accident mortality rates ranged from less than 5 deaths per 100,000 children in Massachusetts and New Jersey to more than 23 deaths per 100,000 children in South Dakota and Mississippi.
Virginia was among 11 states with rates significantly below the national rate, the CDC report said.
Federal and state officials said the rates have dropped largely because fewer children are dying in motor vehicle accidents.
“Most of this decrease coincides with the implementation of a graduated drivers licensing system for Virginia teen drivers and the strengthening of Virginia’s Child Passenger Safety Law along with improvements in the correct use of child safety seats and booster seats,” according to a news release from the Virginia Department of Health.
The department provides nearly 14,000 child safety seats and booster seats annually to families who can’t afford them.
Despite the drop in accidental deaths among Americans 19 and younger, the U.S. rate ranks among the worst of all high-income countries, according to the CDC.
The Virginia Department of Health has created a website with resources for preventing child injuries. The address is http://www.vahealth.org/Injury/preventinjuriesva/index.html.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has posted its report on child injuries at http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/.