Meeks Heit Health & Wellness

Unit 11: Injury Prevention and Personal Safety

WebQuest Projects

The Leading Causes of Death for Teens


In January 2004, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the leading causes of death for Americans for the year 2003. The results for children and teens are startling. The majority of the top five causes of death for teens are preventable. They are as follows, for all races and both genders:

Ages 10-14Ages 15-19
1. Accidents (unintentional injuries)1. Accidents (unintentional injuries)
2. Cancer2. Assault (homicide)
3. Suicide3. Suicide
4. Congenital malformations4. Cancer
5. Assault (homicide)5. Heart disease

For teens, the number one killer is accidents. Two others in the top five are assault and suicide. You may think that accidents are inevitable. They are random events that cannot be prevented, right? Wrong. There are many things you can do to protect yourself from accidents, assault, and the risk of suicide. Protective factors are things in a person's life that help reduce the risk of harm or poor health. In this WebQuest, you will investigate some of the most common causes of death for your age group and create a board game to educate other teens about the risks they face and specific ways to protect themselves.


Your job in this WebQuest is to investigate the causes of death for teens that are preventable. Accidents, assault, and suicide are, in part, preventable. This means you have control over some of your risk factors for these events. You will answer a set of questions about accidents, safety, and ways to control your own risk behaviors. After you have researched some of the different risks teens face, you will create a board game to demonstrate what you have learned about the risk factors and protective factors for teen death. By creating this educational game, your overall attention to risk and safety will improve and you can better protect your health.


First, read through the following questions before you begin your internet research. As you explore each site, look for answers to the questions. Some questions require factual answers, and others require you to support your opinions with material from the Web sites.

Questions about teens and common causes of death
  1. Why do you think accidents are the most common killer of teens?
  2. What are three types of accidents that can occur due to a teen being under the influence of alcohol or drugs? Why does alcohol increase the chances of these accidents?
  3. In 2003, what percentage of U.S. reported that they rarely or never wear safety belts in automobiles driven by other people? How does this percentage compare with what you see among your own peers?
  4. According to the Web site,, what percentage of deaths of all people age 10-24 is a result of one of these four causes: automobile accidents, other unintentional injuries, homicide, and suicide?
  5. How can carrying a weapon to school affect the student who does it, and how can it affect others?
  6. What should you do if you ever find out that a classmate has a gun at school?
  7. What actions would you take if you ever found yourself feeling depressed and hopeless about something in your life?
  8. What are some steps you could take if a friend talked to you about suicide?
  9. What might prevent a victim of violence from seeking help?
  10. How does it affect a victim of violence if he or she does not seek help?
  11. How do conflict-resolution skills help protect your health?
  12. How can having resistance skills reduce your chances of being injured or killed in an accident?
  13. How can being in a relationship that is controlling, or that involves abuse such as hitting or kicking, increase a teen's chance of death?

After answering the questions, use what you have learned to design a board game that will educate other teens about the risks they face every day. For the purposes of the game, you will use only the following causes of death: accidents, assault, and suicide. Your game must include, at minimum, the following items:
  • four pawns or "teens" that will move around the board
  • a method for play, such as a board with a path that pawns will travel
  • a mechanism that players will use to move along the path or play the game, such as dice, a spinner, or cards
  • three risk factors and three protective factors for each of three causes of death for teens, which totals a minimum of 18 factors (again, use only the causes of accidents, assault, and suicide); these risk factors and protective factors must be shown as spaces on the board, cards drawn, or as a roll of the dice to benefit or delay a player in the game;
  • facts and statistics that support your risk factors and protective factors included on the board itself, on cards, or as part of questions asked to the players
  • a name or title, along with a description of the purpose of the game in the form of an instruction sheet.

Be creative! You may create any kind of game that you choose, within the above parameters. You may use questions that players must answer correctly to move forward. You may include facts from your research in different ways in the game. You may use photos, art, or pictures cut out from magazines to enhance your game.


1-2 weeks for research, answering questions, and creating board game


The first nine sites show the results of the surveys done by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in order to explore the causes of and try to decrease the number of preventable deaths for teens each year. All of these risk behaviors lead to an increased probability that a teen will become a victim of assult, suicide, or unintentional injury. For the purpose of this WebQuest, use only the statistics gathered for the years 2001 and 2003.
Visit this site to explore the results of surveys asking teens about safety belt use. Investigate the differences in safety belt use from state to state, and between males and females.
Investigate the statistics on the number of teens who report that within the last 30 days they have ridden in an automobile driven by someone who has been drinking. Again, notice any differences by state, by year, or by gender.
Discover what the survey showed about teens who were asked if they had driven an automobile in the last 30 days while drinking alcohol.
Investigate the statistics on the number of teens who reported carrying a weapon to school at least once in the past 30 days. Think about the risks and potential outcomes of students having a weapon in school.
This report gives the percentages of teens who experienced feelings of sadness or hopelessness for extended periods of time that affected their normal activities. Pay attention to the differences in gender in this survey. What might be some reasons for the large differences in reporting depression?
This page reports how many students had made a plan within the past 12 months for how they would commit suicide.
Read the statistics for how many students report that they have been in a physical fight within the last 30 days.
This report shows the percentage of teens who report that they have been hit, slapped, or kicked by a girlfriend or boyfriend.
Explore this site created by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which shows statistics on teen drivers. Being aware of the increased risk of automobile accidents can help you take steps to prevent them.
Read this article, by an Atlanta doctor of psychiatry, which discusses some of the risk factors for teen suicide. The article also discusses how awareness of the warning signs of suicide can greatly increase your chances of avoiding it. Do you recognize any of the signs in yourself? Have you ever gone through a period of depression in which you experienced any of these symptoms? What did you do about it?
Check out these statistics for the year 2002 showing teen fatalities as a result of automobile accidents. The numbers show how many victims were wearing safety belts and how many were not. Do you take this kind of risk?,1056,1797,00.html
Read these stats about teens and the risks of drinking and driving, and of drinking and walking outside. Drinking alcohol puts teens at a higher risk for any kind of accident or injury.
These statistics about teens and drunk driving from M.A.D.D. are startling. The numbers show a dramatic increase in teen drunk driving around prom and graduation.
Read these warning signs of physical violence within a relationship. Have you ever been treated this way? Do you know someone who is treated this way by a girlfriend or boyfriend?

Take a look at this program created by a 4-H Club in California and presented at a high school assembly. The group presented information about how to identify warning signs of violence in teen relationships. It also provided ideas for students about how to get help if they are involved in a controlling or violent relationship.
This page, created by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shows the percentages of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders who have abused different illegal substances within the past 30 days. This report compares results from 1980 and 1990 through 2002. As you study the numbers and their changes over the past two decades, keep in mind that the use of these substances greatly increases the risk of accidents, injuries, and death.
This site is full of information for teens who may have problems with substance abuse and addiction. is a California organization dedicated to providing information and extensive Web links on addiction and recovery.
This exercise was created by to help teens to be prepared to deal with peer pressure of all kinds. You can practice the role-playing with all kinds of different topics, such as smoking, drinking alcohol, riding in a car with someone who has been drinking, or not wearing a safety belt. It's almost certain that you will experience some kind of peer pressure during your teen years.
Read these ideas from the National Youth Violence Prevention Center. This site gives statistics on teen violence and provides strategies for avoiding violence when conflict arises.


By completing this WebQuest, you have learned about the many risk factors that contribute to early death among teens. Accidents, assault, and suicide may seem inevitable at times, but through closer examination of the causes, you have learned ways to take action to prevent such tragedies. In many cases, these causes of death are preventable. Your research and board game will help you educate others about safety and about the seriousness of some of the risks teens take. The knowledge you have gained has helped reduce your chances of serious injury and death.
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