I found this image lurking on the NHTSA website. MVCs (Motor Vehicle Collisions) are always the leading cause, though the exact ages vary from year to year, e.g. from Motor Vehicle Traffic Crashes as a Leading Cause of Death in the United States, 2000 “motor vehicle traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for every age 2 through 33”. Note that this ranking is all inclusive; thus it includes things like suicide, homicide, and so forth.
Just like everything else in life, there are some nuances that are worth understanding. The simplest distinction is between internal (think disease) and external (think any sort of accidental death; car crash, drowning, falling…). These distinctions are detailed in the technical report, e.g. Motor Vehicle Traffic Crashes as a Leading Cause of Death in the U. S., 1997 (emphasis added):
“As a major external cause, traffic crashes are the prime cause of accidental death in the United States, and this has been true for many years. Thus, for persons of all ages, traffic crashes alone in 1997 caused almost one-half of all accidental deaths that occurred…. “
For example, from Exhibit 5 here are the top 5 causes of “accidental death” for both sexes combined. MVCs DOMINATE the rankings.
- Motor Vehicle Traffic Crashes 42,340
- Falls 15,477
- Poisoning 10,163
- Other and Unspecified Causes (including suffocation which was #4) 5,207
MVC’s (Motor Vehicle Collisions) are so horrifically high, that they have even snuck into the debate over Universal Health Care in the US. It seems that “unnatural” causes of death (MVC being the prime category) are so high in the US that they have significantly depressed our life expectancy. By adjusting the life expectancy data for all the OECD countries (except Luxembourg), the US catapults from last to first place! This is all according to University of Iowa researchers Robert L. Ohsfeldt and John E. Schneider.
Updated for 2009 data
“Motor vehicle traffic crashes were the leading cause of death for age 4 and every age
11 through 27 (based on latest available 2009 data)”
Source: National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Mortality Data, 2009… quoted from NHTSA Quick Facts 2012.