Most young Americans who die aren't struck down by disease but by accidents, suicide and homicide. Those are the leading causes of death for Americans age 15 to 24, said a study by the Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

These "preventable" causes lead to nearly 180,000 deaths a year, said Dr. Tamara Haegerich, lead author of the study. Laws to ensure seat-belt use and to curb drunk driving could lessen the toll, Haegerich said

Unintentional injury -- car accidents, falls and drug overdoses, for example -- are the leading cause of death for ages 1 to 34, with nearly 45,000 deaths nationwide. Along with acts of violence, accidental injuries claimed more lives than all "other main causes of death - including cancer, heart disease, birth defects, stroke and diabetes -- combined."

Capture 10 Leading Causes of Death by Age Group, United States – 2010 Photo: CDC, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control

In the broad category of unintended injuries, the researchers said “more than 33,000 were due to motor-vehicle crashes and another 33,000 were caused by poisonings. Falls were responsible for about 26,000 deaths and about 13,000 were caused by suffocation, drowning or fire, out of the about 120,000 unintended injuries deaths that happen across all age groups.

“We know that injuries and violence are preventable broadly by environmental change, policy and support,” Haegerich said to Reuters.  “Injuries and violence are not inevitable.”