NSC Survey: 7 in 10 Americans Mistakenly Feel Safest at Home, Where Most Preventable Deaths Occur

Four in 10 have been impacted by preventable, 'accidental' deaths.

June 04, 2019

ITASCA, IL – According to a National Safety Council survey released today, 77% of Americans incorrectly think their homes are safe havens when in fact, 75% of preventable incidents – commonly known as “accidents” – happen in homes and communities. A staggering four in 10 people have been directly impacted by preventable deaths; however, despite the widespread devastation, only 49% of those surveyed believe the U.S. can eliminate most or all “accidental” deaths. More than one-third view the task as hopeless.

The findings underscore Americans’ overall misunderstanding of preventable deaths, which are the third leading cause of mortality in the U.S. and have reached an all-time high, largely driven by the opioid crisis. A person has a one-in-24 lifetime odds of dying from a preventable incident, such as a drug overdose, a car crash, a fall, a drowning, a choking or a fire. Research shows that preventable deaths are completely avoidable; however, many people focus on the wrong things. When asked about their biggest safety fears, NSC survey respondents said they are more concerned about homicide (80%) and accidental shootings (79%) than overdoses from prescription or illicit drugs (71%), although drug overdose is the leading cause of preventable death.

For perspective, a person’s lifetime odds of dying from select causes are:

Accidental opioid overdose

1 in 96

Motor vehicle crash

1 in 103


1 in 114

Gun assault (homicide)

1 in 285


1 in 1,117

Fire or smoke

1 in 1,474


1 in 2,696

Accidental gun discharge

1 in 8,912

Cataclysmic storm

1 in 31,394

Plane crash

1 in 188,364

Lightning strike

1 in 218,106

NSC is releasing the survey to kick off National Safety Month, which the Council established in 1996 to educate about preventable deaths and how to end them.

“We lose 465 people each day to incidents we know how to stop,” said Lorraine M. Martin, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “Every single death is preventable. We know what needs to be done; we just need the will do it.”

Other important findings from the poll include:

  • 21% of respondents say their own actions have contributed to a preventable death or injury.
  • When asked what an “accidental death” means to them, 72% correctly said car crashes and 62% said falls, but only 40% associated drug overdose with “accidental death” even though it is the leading cause.
  • Two in three people do not believe more enforcement or legislation will help eliminate preventable deaths, but both are necessary to change behavior and save lives.
  • Encouragingly, 74% believe the U.S. can eliminate most motor vehicle deaths, which claim as many as 40,000 lives each year. The Road to Zero Coalition, managed by NSC, currently is working toward ending all roadway fatalities.
  • 67% believe individuals play the biggest role in eliminating preventable deaths; only 25% say the government is most responsible. However, a combination of education, legislation and enforcement is among the most effective behavior change formulas in public health. For example, the triad of education, legislation and enforcement dramatically increased seat belt usage rates between the 1980s and 1990s, and now more than 90% of front seat passengers buckle up.

The full survey and methodology are available at nsc.org/preventabledeathssurvey. For more information about National Safety Month, visit nsc.org/nsm and join the conversation on social media with the hashtag, #NSM.

About the National Safety Council
The National Safety Council is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to eliminate preventable deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the road through leadership, research, education and advocacy. Founded in 1913 and chartered by Congress, NSC advances this mission by partnering with businesses, government agencies, elected officials and the public in areas where we can make the most impact.

Partner with NSC

With a century-long legacy, the National Safety Council is a global center for safety expertise. Let's work together to align resources. We look forward to learning about ways we can join efforts to expand safety everywhere!

Shopping Cart

There are no items in your cart