The number of children who die from accidents such as car crashes, drowning and fires declined last decade, according to a report issued Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Between 2000 and 2009, the number of children under the age of 20 who died from accidents declined nearly 30 percent, from 12,500 to 9,000 deaths, thanks in large part to increased seat belt use and better vehicle design, CDC .
Traffic fatalities declined 41 percent over the 10-year span but remain the number one cause of death in children between the ages of 5 and 19, according to the report. CDC researchers cited seat belt and child safety seat use, better vehicle design and reductions in drunk driving as major contributors to the decline.
Deaths from drowning, fires and falls declined as well, from over 2,100 in 2000 to 1,500 in 2009.
"Kids are safer from injuries today than ever before," Thomas Frieden, CDC director, said in a statement. "In fact, the decrease in injury death rates in the past decade has resulted in more than 11,000 children's lives being saved."
During the last decade, researchers found the number of deaths from suffocation and poisoning increased by 34 percent and 86 percent respectively. Suffocation increased the most among infants while deaths from poisoning increased among teenagers ages 15 and older.
"We can do more," Frieden said. "It's tragic and unacceptable when we lose even one child to an avoidable injury."
In order to prevent suffocation, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends putting babies to sleep on their back in their own bed free of toys, loose clothing or blankets.
The increase in poisoning deaths largely came from prescription drug overdoses, according to the report authors. Health officials recommend parents store medicine that could potentially be abused, such as oxycodone, morphine and other opioids, out of reach of children and dispose medications properly when no longer needed.
"These injuries are devastating to families and are preventable," Dr. Estevan Garcia, director of pediatric emergency medicine at Maimonides Medical Center, who was not involved in the report, told HealthDay. "While national trends are important, it is also vitally important for parents to understand their risks and to work with their pediatricians to identify and reduce these risks. Safety should begin at home by making sure you have working smoke alarms and are keeping medicines and cleaning products locked away."
In order to curb the number of accidental deaths even further, the CDC started the Protect the Ones You Love Initiative to raise parents' awareness about the leading causes of childhood injury and to help them better understand how injuries can be prevented.
"We all want to keep our children safe and secure and help them live to their full potential," the CDC says on the Initiative's website. "Knowing how to prevent leading causes of child injury, like drowning, is a step toward this goal."