Odds of dying during a skydive (well, more the landing, really)

My wife is going skydiving for the first time. I’ve been scaring her with fatality stories… with a significant number having occurred at the dropzone she’s using.

She used the tired “43,000 people died in car accidents last year” stat. But that doesn’t mean much to me. It would be more significant if I knew the probability of dying when driving a given distance AND the probability of dying when skydiving.

So where can we look?

What are the odds of dying when driving 40 miles (guesstimate for r/t of avg. commute; if you have a better distance to consider, please suggest it).

What are the odds of dying when skydiving?


skydiving: 1 death per 100,000 jumps.

Driving: 1.7 deaths per 100M miles.

So your odds of dying in a skydiving jump are 1 in 100K.

Your odds of dying during a 40-mile commute are 1 in 1,470,588.

If it’s your wife’s first time, she’ll probably be doing a simple static-line jump followed by a simple glide, i.e. no freefall and no stunts on the way down. I expect this will dramatically reduce her risk of death from 1 in 100K to something closer to that commute.

Yes, but it doesn’t play as well as a scare tactic.


My friend gives skydiving “lessons” and has done so for years. Typically the first jump is a tandem: they may strap your wife to the dropmaster and he deploys the chute. Nobody wants to live more than that guy, so odds are your wife will be just fine.*

  • This, coming from a Doper who refuses to go skydiving with my beloved and trusted friend who wants to live just as much as I do. It’s just not my thing; not interested. I’m not afraid to go really fast on the ground, but not to enamored of the idea of jumping out of a perfectly good airplane just because. Screw that.

Why are you trying to scare her into not going through with this?

If you don’t want her to jump, just tell her that you are scared of her jumping and it would mean a lot to you that she didn’t do it. If that doesn’t work, well I guess your shit out o’luck. You can at least take some solace that it’s not really that dangerous. And that she’ll most likely see you when she’s back on the ground.

To add to the thrill. My wife, father, and brother are all going. I’m just helping them enjoy it.

ETA: I also stand in line for roller coasters and recount stories of horrific things happening on similar rides, and they are usually true! The difference is that I actually get on the roller coaster :slight_smile:

Remember, you can translate Joe Frickin Friday’s numbers to say that skydiving is as dangerous as commuting to and from work for three weeks. That’ll scare them.

Another point about skydiving accidents is that easily 95% of them involve one or more conspicuous violations of good procedure. So if you (or those you jump with) can manage to do things in what’s known to be the right way, the chance of a problem declines significantly.

(Of course, much the same thing is true of automobile accidents.)

This. I used to skydive a lot and ran a college club. It’s been a while since I looked at the incident reports but the majority of them involved a series of obvious errors on the part of the injured party; someone with minimal training could easily look at the facts and say “That was wrong, that was a bad idea, that was done way too late”.

Look, skydiving is not an amusement park ride. Even on a tandem you need to be an active participant. It’s a “high risk” sport in the same way that something like SCUBA diving is; good training, good judgement and good equipment minimize but cannot remove the risk.

From the last time I did the statistics, the 1 fatality in 100,000 jump number is in the right ballpark (there aren’t a ton of deaths each year so minor changes skew the numbers; might be 1 in 50k or 1 in 70k some years). Students carry additional safety gear and have experienced and properly certified trainers and instructors watching out for them, for obvious reasons.

If the DZ you’re looking at seems dodgy, pay attention. If everything just looks slipshod, they don’t seem to take safety seriously and it just “feels wrong”, go someplace else. I’ve been to dropzones that as an experienced jumper I’d be OK with going with my friends but I would never have sent a student there.

Aaaahhhh. It is clearer now.

Just show them this, this and this.

Its been said that “There’s no such thing as a perfectly good airplane”. I’ll be doing my first tandem jump at the place the OP is referring to in a couple of weeks. Just living dangerously, I guess.

How do you know where my family is jumping? I must have spilled it somewhere, but I forget where…

ETA: Must be my username + significant fatalities.

When I called Freefall Adventures to buy the gift certificate @ Christmas, I asked them for a discount ('cuz we have 3 jumpers with video). They declined and I joked, “Ya, because I that’s what I look for when I go skydiving… a good bargain.” We chuckled and then she (the FA rep) said that people often do look for value before safety. That just opened the door for me. So I asked, “Speaking of safety, is there any sort of suitable explanation for the 4 deaths in 4 years?” Her reply was that they were “statistically normal” for the industry. Bargain prices and average safety… my two biggest selection criteria.

gee, I love skydiving threads…'cause they let me post my favorite slogan:

(handwritten on the wall of a drop zone,next to a poster advertising some new high-tech safety gear: )
"Remember when skydiving was dangerous, and sex was safe?"

My first jump was static line but solo - after significant training. I had to sit go a 5-hour class before jumping.

the thing I remember most about it is the same problem as landing a float plane on a glassy pond - you have no judgement of height. You look down, you can see the grassy field, but you can’t tell when you are 50 feet or 20 feet or 5 feet up - because there’s no reference points for comparison on a continuous grass field. You don’t want to flare too soon. Plus, being on the larger side, I came down harder than most and did end up sitting down trying to curb forward motion.

The most distracting part of the jump was trying to hear the walkie-talkie instructions over the wind noise; we were doing s-turns with ground observer guidance to hit the landing zone area.

The place I was at did not mention a large number of fatalities, but they did say that a decent number of people (one or two every two weeks) ended up going to the hospital, often with sprains and occasionally breaks, due to poorly-controlled landings. So fatalities may not be the whole picture.

Note to self: write God a note, thanking him for not making me related to JerseyFrank.


“If at first you don’t succeed - try, try again. Unless you’re skydiving.”

Hmmm…Carl Sagan once said that “you wouldn’t get onto a commercial airliner if the odds of catastrophic failure of the aircraft were 1 in 100,000.” And he’s right; there would be like 3 big ass crashes every week somewhere in the world. I think I’ll pass on the skydiving.

Let’s keep things in perspective. No skydiver has accumulated anywhere near 100,000 jumps - I think Don Kellner is still the record holder, he’s got nearly 40,000 jumps and it took him 50 years to hit that mark.

As mentioned above, injuries and fatalities almost always involve multiple violations of accepted safety practices, they aren’t random events that “just happen”.

There’s two ways to not make 100,000 jumps: (1) run out of time, and (2) run out of luck.

Just sayin’:smiley:

Maybe ou wouldn’t get on it for a routine flight to Grandma’s house. But if you always dreamed of a vacation in India and your choices were a jet, a month on a boat, or staying home, I’d risk it. I doubt many people consider skydiving to be a risk-free thing as much as they consider it an acceptable risk given the fun you get out of it.