Childhood deaths from injury have dropped almost 30 percent over the past decade, but suffocation deaths by infants and fatal poisonings among teens have risen, said a US study out Monday.
Despite the 29 percent decline, unintentional injuries are still the number one killer for US minors between the ages of one and 19, taking more than 9,000 lives in 2009, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The US rate of unintentional injury deaths among youths in 2004 was about twice that in other high-income countries in the the World Health Organization's European and Western Pacific Regions, it added.
Car crashes dropped by 41 percent from 2000-2009, but remained the leading accidental killer among this group. The CDC attributed the decline to improvements in child safety seats and better training for teen drivers.
"Despite this success, traffic crashes remain the leading cause of death for persons in age groups 5-19 years, accounting for 67 percent of unintentional injury deaths and 28 percent of deaths from all causes among those aged 15-19 years in 2009."
Poisoning deaths among those age 15 to 19 have been rising -- up 91 percent in 2009 compared to 2000 -- along with the rest of the US population, mainly due to overdoses of prescription drugs.
The higher infant suffocation rate -- up 54 percent from 2000 to 2009 -- "could be curbed" if more parents followed pediatricians' recommendations to have infants "sleep in safe cribs, alone, on their backs, with no loose bedding or soft toys," the study added.
However, the CDC pointed out that the apparent higher rate of infant suffocation could be a result of the change of death certificate classification over time.
Such deaths were often previously attributed to mysterious "sudden infant death syndrome," but recently, more of these deaths have been classed as "suffocation" as understanding of the syndrome has improved.
"Kids are safer from injuries today than ever before. In fact, the decrease in injury death rates in the past decade has resulted in more than 11,000 children's lives being saved," said CDC Director Thomas Frieden.
"But we can do more. It's tragic and unacceptable when we lose even one child to an avoidable injury."