(ThinkStock Photos)If you're deciding where to raise your children, you may want to consult with the Center for Disease Control. The agency's new report maps the states with the highest rates of deadly accidents among kids.
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In 2009, the country lost 9,000 to preventable injuries, according to the CDC's Vital Signs report. While accidental deaths among children have dropped by 30 percent nationwide, the U.S. still had one of the worst records in comparison to other high-income countries worldwide.
Overall, motor vehicle crashes remained the number-one cause of death. Suffocation among infants went up over 50 percent and poisoning rates among teens spiked, mainly due to prescription painkillers. "The same drug epidemic we've been describing in our adult population is also now happening with our kids," Dr. Julie Gilchrist, a CDC medical epidemiologist and co-author of the study, told Shine.
Despite the findings, the CDC offered some comforting perspective, as well. "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."
But in some states the problem is particularly apparent. The report measured the death rates state by state and called attention to some of the areas with the highest mortality rates for kids. Here are the six states with the worst record.
Mississippi: This southern state has the highest child injury death rates among kids, according to the report. The high poverty rate may be the underlying cause behind the statistics. In 2007 U.S. Census, Mississippi residents had the lowest average household income in the country. That trickles down to community programs and local awareness campaigns.
Family and motor vehicle safety campaigns "are not heavily funded programs," the state's department of health rep Liz Charlotte told ABC News.
Another recent report found the state to have the highest teen birth rate, with 55 births for every 1,000 girls.
South Dakota: Overall, this state reduced the amount of child injury deaths by 21 percent. Still, 70 percent of those children who lost their lives in 2009 were victims of car accidents. Already, changes are under way. Last year, the state implemented new driver safety initiatives which may put the Badlands on the right track.
Montana: Between 2000 and 2005 the state saw an average of 61 unintentional child deaths per year, but according to ABC News, the overall rate was reduced in recent years by 35 percent. Like many other states on this list, Montana's terrain is rocky and it's weather conditions extreme, making car accidents among new drivers all the more likely.
Wyoming: In response to the alarmingly high rate of child injury deaths, the state's department of health pointed the finger at geography. "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," Kim Deti, a spokeswoman for the Wyoming State Department of Health, told ABC News.
Louisiana and Oklahoma: Respectively, fifth and sixth on the list, both states also keep company on another CDC survey. In 2008, the two states had some of the highest rates of fatal painkiller prescription overdoses in the country. Overall Louisiana showed the least improvement in the past decade in terms of curbing child death rates. The state lost 235 kids to preventable accidents in 2009. While Oklahoma saw improvement in the number of vehicle related deaths, drugs overdoses were on the rise. Sheryl Brown, of Oklahoma's State Department of Health, confirmed: "Unintentional poisoning deaths have increased dramatically among adults in the past decade as well as teens."
The goal behind the CDC's research is to motivate both parents and community members to take action in preventing common causes of child deaths.
"There things we know work that parents everywhere can do right now," says Gilchrist. "Wearing a bike helmet, making sure your child is appropriately restrained in the car seat, providing cribs that meet safety standards for infants."
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Other improvements are harder to tackle. State funding for educational programs and accessible trauma centers are more widespread in wealthier areas. New Jersey, one of the states with the lowest mortality rates, is also one of the country's richest.
But state laws also have a dramatic impact when it comes to saving kids' lives. Gilchrist sees a direct link between lowered mortality rates and states with improved motor vehicle safety laws and
Massachusetts, the state found to have the lowest child injury death rate in the country, is a shining example. In 2008, a law was passed requiring kids under 8 to ride in a booster seat. In 2006, another law making it harder for teens to get their licenses also contributed to the state's glowing record.
"When half of your deaths are in one mechanism any changes that will have impact," says Gilchrist.
But even in the safest states, preventable accidents happen. The CDC's newly launched Protect the Ones You Love campaign, featuring proactive safety tips for parents, aims to curb some of them.
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Are rear seats safe for kids?
Keeping your kids safe in car-pools