The nation’s accidental death rate has been gradually creeping higher and is up 12 percent compared to the lowest rate on record, in 1992, according to a report released Thursday by the National Safety Council. The independent, nonprofit group warned that if the trend continues, the nation could surpass the all-time high of 116,385 accidental deaths, set in 1969. From 1969 until 1992, the rate of accidental deaths — a number adjusted for population growth — steadily declined. The council credited seat belts and air bags in vehicles, smoke detectors in homes and stiff drunken driving laws with reducing deaths.
But ground is being lost because of increasing rates of falls among the elderly and accidental overdoses from legal and illegal drugs, said Alan McMillan, CEO of the National Safety Council. Meanwhile, deaths from workplace accidents and car crashes have been fairly stable. Older motorcycle operators also add to the death toll, McMillan said. Thirty-five percent of motorcycle deaths in 2005 were among bikers age 45 and older. A decade earlier, 15 percent of biker deaths were among the older age group. The rate of deaths from falls for people 65 and older rose 31 percent from 1999 to 2003, the council reported.