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Accidental Death Dangers for Young Children (Age 1 to 7):

A discussion with some parents led me to look into this, using the CDC's invaluable WISQARS application. I looked at accidental death dangers for young children, age 1 to 7, over the span 2001 to 2005; do not assume that this extrapolates well to older children, but run your own queries instead. Here are the results:

Cause of accidental deathRate per 100,000 children age 1 to 7
Drowning2.0
Car accident, child passenger in car1.3 to 2.2
Hit by car while walking1.3
Fire (not including house fire)1.2
House fire1.1
Suffocation0.6
Fall0.2
Bicycle0.1
Poison0.1
"Unintentional struck by or against"0.1
Firearm0.1

If you want to figure out the total numbers per year, multiply each number by 250 (since there are roughly 25 million children age 1 to 7 in the country). But the rate per 100,000 is of course more useful.

Ex parte McCardle:
As the parent of 2 boys, ages 5 and 1, I want to thank EV for providing 11 specific items on which to focus my 3:00 AM night terrors.
3.12.2008 2:49pm
erics (mail):
Is it proper to use only one decimal? More specifically, will any reading above zero register as a "0.1?" Is it possible that bicycle deaths are 0.09/100K and firearm deaths are 0.0009/100K?

Relatively speaking, 2.3 deaths/100K by fire is suprisingly high.
3.12.2008 2:50pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Ex parte McCardle: I thought this would help you prioritize your night terrors! Plus I thought it might actually diminish them, given the very low rates.

Erics: I deliberately rounded to the nearest 0.1 (which is to say the nearest 1 per million), since I didn't want to give an illusion of greater precision -- the WISQARS data, valuable as it is, has obvious precision limits. (0.0009/100K would have rounded to 0.0, by the way.) But if you want the raw numbers, you can go to WISQARS yourself.
3.12.2008 2:57pm
Cornellian (mail):
I thought the number for "Fire (not including house fire)" was suprisingly high.
3.12.2008 2:57pm
DJR:
erics,

You could just click on the link and run it yourself. For unintentional firearms deaths, 1999-2005, age range 0-7, the rate is 0.07. For pedal cyclist, it is 0.09.

The risk for both firearms and bicycles goes up as children get older. For 15-19 year olds, the firearms rate is 0.5/100K over the same period. For bicycles its 0.31. The most dangerous years for bicycling appear to be 10-14, with a 0.42 rate.
3.12.2008 3:03pm
ithaqua (mail):
It occurs to me that water is twenty times more dangerous to kids than firearms. Ban dihydrogen monoxide!

It also occurs to me that Islam and terrorism don't even appear on the list. What a strange omission. It's as if, compared to the ordinary risks we face every day, they're not really a serious threat at all :)
3.12.2008 3:23pm
ithaqua (mail):
Addendum: if DJR's right, water is actually 28 times more dangerous to children than guns are. Which only strengthens my point :)
3.12.2008 3:24pm
DJR:
Actually, terrorism is on the list, though the only year that appears to have any terrorism deaths is 2001.
3.12.2008 3:35pm
DCP:
I would think poison would be higher on the list, given the extreme lengths parents and manufacturers go to to child-proof household toxins and medications.

Then again, maybe these precautions are the reason we have so few accidental poisonings.

Also, seeing as how fire (house and other combined) is the leading cause of accidental death in children, I'm a little more understanding of the "don't play with matches" paranoia that seemed to predominate the parental worries of my generational childhood.
3.12.2008 3:40pm
Houston Lawyer:
It is because of the risk of drowning that I don't have a pool. I almost redesigned the cedar fence in my back yard to make it more difficult to climb in order to prevent children from climbing out of my yard and getting into my neighbor's pool.

These statistics also played out on the news yesterday, with children dying both by fire and by getting hit by a vehicle.
3.12.2008 3:41pm
Virginian:
When you start talking about the risk of death from firearms for "children" 15-19 (is a 19 yo really a "child"?), then you have to wonder how many of these "children" are gang-bangers.
3.12.2008 3:43pm
Allan (mail):
Re: Drowning v. Firearms

Kids like swimming and they have to bathe (although showers are a reasonable alternative).

Kids like firearms, but they do not have to use them (arguably, I guess a case could be made that firearms are essential in some areas of the country).

Since our society encourages child interaction with water, even though water is dangerous, it makes sense that there are more drownings.

One would expect that, were we to make access to firearms as easy as access to water, the number of firearm deaths per thousand would rise. Further, if we turned a blind eye to wreckless use of firearms (as we sometimes do with water), we might find that not only would child mortality rose, but adult mortality as well.

Or maybe not. Just a thought.
3.12.2008 3:58pm
ithaqua (mail):
Virginian: the database separates intentional and unintentional firearms deaths, which should take care of the gangbanger issue.

To wit: unintentional firearms deaths, if I'm using the thing right, are 0.47 per 100,000 for ages 15-19. Intentional firearms deaths for the same ages are 11.87 per 100,000.

Drowning deaths (all intents) for ages 15-19 are 1.57 per 100,000, which kinda contradicts my previous post. Lies, damned lies, etc...
3.12.2008 3:59pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
With all of those risks above that of firearms, shouldn't we think about banning a lot of other things first, before mandating safes and trigger guards? Maybe cars, fires, pools?
tent?
3.12.2008 4:03pm
JRL:

It occurs to me that water is twenty times more dangerous to kids than firearms. Ban dihydrogen monoxide!


Please. A ban would be absurd. I suggest a 14 day waiting period!
3.12.2008 4:06pm
Maniakes (www):
When the rates get this low, I think raw numbers are instructive.

Out of a population of 31 million children ages 0-7, there were 29 accidental firearm deaths. There were also (if I'm interpreting the categories on the linked website properly) 3 deaths from chidren 7 and under driving motorcycles.
3.12.2008 4:09pm
Benjamin R. George (mail):
I think it'd be more interesting to see the rate of firearm death for children who live in households with at least one firearm. Without something like that, it's hard to tell how much of this is attributable to guns being a nonissue, and how much is attributable to a low frequency of gun ownership among new parents. If there aren't many guns that children get near, it might be that the average gun is still a much higher risk than the average body of water. (I'm not claiming that it is, it'd just be interesting to get some data that clarifies this.)
3.12.2008 4:13pm
Nick P.:
As suggested by Alan's comments, it would be interesting to know what the death rates would look like if they normalized relative to the time that children spend in close proximity to the danger (i.e. drownings per hour spent in a home with a swimming pool versus gunshot deaths per hour spent in a home with a gun). I realize that this would be difficult to accomplish, but it would help us determine if bathtubs and swimming pools really are more dangerous than guns.

Before age 7, I learned to swim and spent countless hours messing around on slippery rocks next to a cold, cold sea. I don't think I saw my first firearm before I was much older.
3.12.2008 4:20pm
alkali (mail):
How is the distinction between "intentional" and "unintentional" drawn for purposes of firearm deaths?

I don't have any particular point to make, I'm just wondering, and I couldn't find it poking around the CDC site. In particular, I wonder how a death by stray bullet would be categorized.
3.12.2008 4:27pm
Nick P.:
Bruce Hayden:
With all of those risks above that of firearms, shouldn't we think about banning a lot of other things first, before mandating safes and trigger guards? Maybe cars, fires, pools?
tent?


It's perhaps worth noting that for most of those causes of accidental death, there are already safety regulations designed to reduce the danger. Wouldn't laws mandating trigger guards or safes be analogous to laws mandating child safety seats in cars, slower speed limits in school zones, fences around swimming pools and fire retardant jammies?
3.12.2008 4:38pm
Alan Gunn (mail):

I think it'd be more interesting to see the rate of firearm death for children who live in households with at least one firearm. Without something like that, it's hard to tell how much of this is attributable to guns being a nonissue, and how much is attributable to a low frequency of gun ownership among new parents. If there aren't many guns that children get near, it might be that the average gun is still a much higher risk than the average body of water. (I'm not claiming that it is, it'd just be interesting to get some data that clarifies this.)

While isn't quite the statistic you wanted (which may not be available), Freakonomics reports (p. 149) that there is one drowning of a child for every 11,000 residential swimming pools and one child killed by a gun for every 1-million plus guns. Exactly how this relates to your question, I'm not sure. Many gun owners own multiple guns, and it seems likely that a careful gun owner with twenty guns is no more dangerous than a careful gun owner with one, while hardly anyone has multiple pools. Shooting deaths per gun-owning household would be a more-useful statistic, I think, and it would certainly be much higher than shooting deaths per gun. Still, these data do show that drowning is a very serious risk for children. I have lived near lakes, and I can't remember a summer there without one or (usually) more child drownings each year. Also--just a guess--I'd be very surprised if new parents were any less likely to own guns than others. Gun owners other than people who got that status accidentally (inheritance, say) are unlikely to dispose of their guns when they have kids, though they may become more careful about storage.
3.12.2008 4:47pm
Hoosier:
WHAT ABOUT VENGEFUL KILLER SHARKS?!!

Carcharadon carcharias, my friends: This is why I am raising my kids in Indiana!

No damn sharks!
3.12.2008 5:20pm
New World Dan (www):
WHAT ABOUT VENGEFUL KILLER SHARKS?!!


More people are killed each year by falling coconuts than sharks. That's why I'm raising my kid in Minnesota.

My biggest concern for my kid is her dying in a car accident, mostly on account of her mother's bad driving.
3.12.2008 5:34pm
bonhomme (mail):
This is why I am raising my kids in Indiana! No damn sharks!

Sharks in Indiana!
3.12.2008 5:45pm
Allan (mail):
And there might be sharks in Wisconsin. Just ask the Fonz. (The setting of this show might actually have been in California).
3.12.2008 5:56pm
Suzy (mail):
Does all choking fall under suffocation? I thought that would rank even higher.
3.12.2008 6:29pm
Dave N (mail):
It occurs to me that water is twenty times more dangerous to kids than firearms. Ban dihydrogen monoxide!

Please. A ban would be absurd. I suggest a 14 day waiting period!
And I know some children who would agree with the 14 day waiting period, at least for baths.
3.12.2008 7:48pm
theobromophile (www):
Random question (which I could theoretically find out if I looked at the data): does "drowning" include children who fall into a toilet and drown? Once my little siblings were born, I was taught to keep the lid on the toilet down: little kids will sometimes peer into them, and, being rather top-heavy, fall over.

I was surprised to see both hit by a car as a pedestrian and "Unintentional struck by or against" - what is the difference? Does the latter include car accidents as a cyclist? Miscellaneous deaths arising from blunt trauma?
3.12.2008 8:00pm
PJens:
Allan...There are no fresh water sharks in Wisconsin. Maybe a few released alligtors (though not many lived through this winter) and the occasional (again released) mountain lion. No Sharks. Quit watching TV!

Seriously, what we do have here in Wisconsin is cows and they live on farms. The state has done a wonderful job of emphasizing farm safety and enacted programs to bring knowledge to the people. This includes hunter safety courses, which I think many or most WI rural kids have attended.

I have no data, but from reading the Wisconsin State Farmer, and other local papers, I beleive that in rural WI areas, farm accidents are high on the list as cause of death in small children. Wisconsinites do have pools, but many are used as hockey rinks 6 months of the year.

I believe regional and even local differences in child death rates may be worth parental consideration.

Thank you Prof Volokh for this post!!!
3.12.2008 8:00pm
Vinnie (mail):
Seriously, what we do have here in Wisconsin is cows and they live on farms.



Cows With Guns
3.12.2008 8:38pm
Duffy Pratt (mail):
From 1999 to 2005, 395 kids 1-7 died in falls, while only 3 were killed in terrorist attacks. Hmmm.....
3.12.2008 9:28pm
Hoosier:
bonhomme--GREAT! This must be recent: I've taken my kids to the FW Zoo, but not last year.

Now we have to MOVE!

DAMMIT!


Is NoDak shark-free? (Amd lest anyone think I'm, y'know, crazy or something, I am NOT worried about whale sharks, basking sharks, or any kind of ray. I mean, puh-LEEZ!)
3.12.2008 10:01pm
David Schwartz (mail):
I believe "fire" includes deaths from burns not associated with fire, such as from having a hot liquid spill on you.
3.12.2008 11:20pm
Gary Anderson (mail):
As a Red Cross water safety instructor, I'm not surprised by the number one cause of death.

But I am surprised by how many found this post to be so humorous. Maybe it's that laughing because you find children's deaths uncomfortable thing and it helps you cope, or maybe you aren't putting human faces to these statistics. Whatever.

And I believe David above is correct about the "burns" thing. Because they're so little, what might merely be painful but eventually heal for us as adults, can kill a little one outright. Push those teapots well back on the table when holding a little one on your lap, and tell the grandparents the same. If they're long-limbed, they really do have reach, and can move so quickly in grabbing at such young ages.

And for heaven's sake, protect them around open water. It really does just take a minute or two out of your sight... Florida alone, and the Nicklaus family, demonstrate that it's not just neglectful families who can experience this number one killer.
3.12.2008 11:55pm
Allan (mail):
OK.

We can agree on a few things:

1. Avoid Indiana, there are sharks. Take the next flight to Bermuda.
2. Wisconsin is ok. Don't have to worry about kids with guns, but watch out because the bovines are packing.
3. The statistics listed above are pretty worthless, except that they provided good fodder for discussion.
3.12.2008 11:57pm
blcjr (mail):
Looks like the server is currently being bombarded. I've used WISQARS before, but have been waiting for it to be updated. I was surprised by Eugene's post to see that it at least is up to 2005 now.

What I wanted to check was a category that Eugene left out: death due to medical "accidents" (I don't recall exactly how it is worded). I think it shows that medical "accidents" are slightly higher than accidental deaths from firearms. I've imagined using the stat the next time I hear the American Society of Pediatric Physicians (or whatever they call themselves) get on their high horse about guns in the home.
3.13.2008 12:04am
Vermando (mail) (www):
The fire number is absolutely petrifying. Can you imagine how awful that would be for a child? I'm raising my kids in an igloo.
3.13.2008 1:21am
Syd Henderson (mail):
Hoosier:
WHAT ABOUT VENGEFUL KILLER SHARKS?!!


Death by vengeful killer shark is not accidental.
3.13.2008 2:48am
Justin Bowen (mail):
Proposed government solutions to these problems:

Drowning 2.0 - outlaw standing and flowing water

Car accident, child passenger in car 1.3 to 2.2 - outlaw having children as passengers in cars

Hit by car while walking 1.3 - outlaw children walking near roads

Fire (not including house fire) 1.2 - outlaw fire

House fire 1.1 - outlaw homes

Suffocation 0.6 - outlaw everything that can cause suffocation

Fall 0.2 - outlaw standing and climbing

Bicycle 0.1 - outlaw bicycles

Poison 0.1 - outlaw all toxic chemicals

"Unintentional struck by or against" 0.1 - outlaw objects

Firearm 0.1 - outlaw bullets
3.13.2008 7:31am
Hoosier:
"Death by vengeful killer shark is not accidental."

Ahh, but what if the shark seeks out the wrong child upon whom to avenge himself? Sharks aren't very bright, y'know.
3.13.2008 8:11am
FredR (mail):
This pretty much tallies with what I've seen while working with flood and swiftwater rescue. Water probably kills more kids than anything else. In floods, we've found that overall the two biggest groups are 1) motorists swept off the road and 2) kids playing around the water. Kids like to play in the water and don't understand how much power moving water has.

Pools are also a major killer of kids in southern states -- far more than firearms -- but you seldom hear calls to ban them.
3.14.2008 12:02am