Was ’08 as death-free as ’07?

If statistics from a year ago become a trend, 2008 will turn out to be a relatively death-free year in King County.

Fewer people died in 2007 from traffic crashes and homicides, according to the county medical examiner’s report that was released today. The report covers suspicious, sudden, unexpected or violent deaths – the kind investigated by the medical examiner – countywide for the previous year.

Of the 13,042 people who died in 2007, 170 were victims of traffic accidents and another 76 were murdered. In 2006, traffic fatalities and homicides totaled 91 and 221, respectively.

“To prevent unnecessary deaths, we need to understand what causes them,” said Dr. David Fleming, director of the Seattle-King County Public Health Department, which includes the medical examiner. “Death reviews are crucial” in efforts to understand and help prevent “circumstances, risk factors and trends of these deaths. For example, we know the leading causes of traffic fatalities. Therefore, through the King County Traffic Safety Coalition, we have worked tirelessly to alleviate those causes, including alcohol and drug impairment, speed and failure to wear seat belts.”

Among other deaths in 2007 that weren’t from natural causes, 687 were in accidents such as falls, 223 were suicides, and 53 were of undetermined causes.