The 6 Most Dangerous States in Which to Be a Kid

Accidental deaths among U.S. children were down by 30 percent, according to a Centers for Disease Control report published Monday.

Because of the reduced numbers, more than 11,000 kids' lives were saved between 2000 and 2009, the most recent year for which data were available. Researchers said the decline was mostly seen in traffic deaths. Despite the good news, however, the numbers also showed that injuries and deaths caused by suffocation and poisoning were on the rise.

"Kids are safer from injuries today than ever before," CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said in a statement. "In fact, the decrease in injury death rates in the past decade has resulted in more than 11,000 childrens' lives being saved. But we can do more. It's tragic and unacceptable when we lose even one child to an avoidable injury."

The most common cause of deaths in U.S. kids was motor vehicle accidents. The report found that other leading causes included suffocation, drowning, poisoning, fires and falls.

Poisoning cases, mostly from prescription drug use, rose 91 percent in the past decade.

CDC experts say education efforts must be put into place to curb prescription drug access. Appropriate prescribing, proper storage and disposal, discouraging medication sharing and state-based prescription drug monitoring programs are all ways to reduce the rising rates of prescription drug overdoses and deaths in the United States.

"This is a sort of good news, bad news report," said Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. "It's great that we've seen a decline, but there is still a lot of work to be done and a lot of opportunities to change things for the better."

States ranged greatly in the number of accidental deaths in children. Massachusetts had the best numbers, with fewer than five deaths per 100,000 children. Mississippi had the worst, with more than 23 deaths per 100,000 children.

Smith said this is not too surprising. A link is often seen between safety regulations within the state and number of child deaths.

"We need to push forward to implement policies and practices that will promote injury prevention, like booster seat laws and graduated driver licenses laws," Smith said. "Massachusetts has a long history of safety culture. It was the first state to pass progressive legislation to protect kids. We should look to their leadership to adopt that protection in other states."

Check out the six most dangerous states to be a kid.

The 6 Most Dangerous States to Be a Kid


The state has had an uphill climb in fighting poverty and obesity. The 2007 U.S. Census found that Mississippi was the poorest state in the country. Of all 50 states, Mississippi has the lowest average household income. It also has the highest rates of obesity, with seven out of 10 adults in the state either overweight or obese, according to the state's department of health.

Liz Charlotte, director of communications with the Mississippi Department of Health, said the department does its best with the amount of monetary resources available. The department provides education on fire and motor vehicle safety, along with education on how to prevent suffocation during sleep in babies.

"These are not heavily funded programs, but the funding goes to education programs in the most needed areas," Charlotte said. "Our numbers tend to be at the top in most public health issues, but it's good news to see that our limited funds are helping to bring accident child deaths down overall.

"We'll continue to work and hopefully these numbers will continue to decrease," she said.

The 6 Most Dangerous States to Be a Kid

South Dakota

The Badlands state reduced accidental child deaths by 21 percent from 2001 to 2009, but it still came in as the second most dangerous state to be a kid.

According to Dr. Lon Kightlinger of the South Dakota Department of Health, motor vehicle accidents accounted for nearly 70 percent of deaths in children. Drowning accounted for more than 5 percent of the deaths and poisoning accounted for 3 percent.

"The most recent report from the Governors' Highway Safety Association shows South Dakota in a very good light when it comes to teen driving safety," said Lee Axdahl, head of the South Dakota Office of Highway Safety. "We are at the top of their list for fewest fatalities. Even so, we recognize that motor vehicle crashes are a significant cause of deaths and injuries in young people in this state. … We continue to refine our laws and educational programs to address the problem."

Axdahl noted that the 2011 South Dakota legislature created a state task force on teen driving safety, which takes a comprehensive look at factors that affect teen driving, including distractions, alcohol and drug use, seat-belt usage and driver education.

"The task force will make recommendations to the legislature for possible changes in state laws and programs," Axdahl said. "This is a critically important topic, and we will continue to pursue programs and policies to reduce the number of accidental deaths among young people and among all South Dakotans. Obviously, accidental death is a primary cause of teen deaths."

The 6 Most Dangerous States to Be a Kid


Montana's public health and safety departments declined ABC News' requests for comment, but CDC numbers showed about 20 deaths per 100,000 children. Despite the high statistics, the state actually reduced its death rate in kids by 35 percent from 2001 to 2009.

"Safety advocates and politicians must sit down and look at where they have opportunities for improvement in their states," Smith said. "Adopting safety behaviors is a continuum of change and we have to be very strategic in getting safety messages out to the public."

The 6 Most Dangerous States To Be a Kid


Staff in the public health department said Wyoming's high number is a "troubling concern."

Like most states, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of injury and death in Wyoming children and teens.

"It's likely that Wyoming's rural nature, unpredictable weather, the distances we travel regularly, lack of mass transit and potential long distances to emergency services and hospital care when crashes occur are factors," said Kim Deti, a spokeswoman for the Wyoming State Department of Health.

Deti said the health department is one of several entities that provide funding for an organization known as "Safe Kids," a community outreach program that provides education on a variety of youth safety issues.

The 6 Most Dangerous States to Be a Kid


Louisiana's state health department did not return ABC News' requests for comment, but the state came in fifth on the list of most dangerous places for kids. The numbers also showed that Louisiana showed the least improvement in child deaths, with only a 9 percent drop in unintentional deaths between 2000 and 2009. There were 253 unintentional deaths among Louisiana's children and teens in 2009.

The 6 Most Dangerous States to Be a Kid


"We are glad that overall the number of unintentional childhood injury deaths in Oklahoma decreased, but clearly we have much more work to do," said Sheryll Brown, director of violence prevention programs with the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

Brown noted that the department has a safe sleep program to prevent infant suffocation deaths, along with a car seat distribution and installation program.

But she said efforts to strengthen graduated driver licensing laws to prohibit the use of handheld electronic devices in people younger than 18 have been unsuccessful.

"For the past three years, this legislation has failed," she said.

Motor vehicle deaths did see success in numbers. From 2000 to 2009, deaths in motor vehicles declined by 23 percent and unintentional suffocation in babies decreased by 21 percent. But poisoning deaths increased by 2.6 times.

"The department is working with the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics to find ways to prevent deaths from unintentional prescription drug overdoses," Brown said. "Unintentional poisoning deaths have increased dramatically among adults in the past decade as well as teens."

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