Published: March 20, 2017
Skydiving Statistics on Safety in Skydiving
Skydiving is getting safer and safer every year in the US. The most recent data from the United States Parachute Association (USPA) shows that the number of fatalities per 1,000 jumps is at its lowest rate yet, at just 0.006 (in 2015). That's half as many fatalities as there were back in the 1970s and testament to the great leaps that have been made in terms of skydiving technology and processes.
Skydiving is inherently a sport with risks. You are, after all, jumping out of an airplane. There's always going to be a degree of risk involved, just as there is with any sport or even day to day activities like driving a car or crossing the road.
What's making skydiving safer is the skydiving community's ongoing commitment to mitigating risk. We do this through the technological advances in our equipment, the training we undertake and the process we put in place to keep ourselves, and others, safe. Let's take a look at skydiving safety statistics, how they compare and why skydiving continues to attract thousands of new jumpers every year.
Skydiving safety: fatalities and injuries
The USPA - United States Parachute Association - is the advisory body for the sport of skydiving here in the USA. Skydiving centers are not required to be members of the USPA, but the majority choose to be for the guidelines and regulations it provides.
The USPA keeps records of the number of fatalities and injuries amongst its members, of which there are more than 35,000 (which include tandem skydivers, professionals and hobby jumpers) across 230 affiliated skydiving centers.
The first ever record of skydiving fatalities in 1961 showed an average of 3.65 fatalities per 1,000 skydives. As the years have passed and advances have been made, that number has reduced to just 0.006 fatalities per thousand in 2015.
Injuries are more common than fatalities in skydiving, but still far less common than you might think. The bottom line is that we're jumping from an aircraft and falling at speeds of around 120mph through the air before deploying our parachutes and coming into land. It's to be expected that every now and again, things don't go entirely to plan. Often, this is through people simply trying something more advanced than their current skills allow. Other times, it's as simple as somebody landing on an ankle in slightly the wrong way or even tripping over as they run off their speed.
In 2015, there were 1,920 injuries requiring medical care out of 3.5 million jumps, or one injury per 1,806 skydives, according to the USPA safety records.
Skydiving safety statistics; how do they compare?
Given the safety stats laid out here, hopefully you'll agree that it's quite unfair for skydiving to be perceived as a 'risky' sport.
In fact, there are many other activities you could undertake which are statistically much less safe, including (according to the National Safety Council):
Motor vehicle crash
The chances of a fatality through a motor collision is 1 in 114.
Choking on your food
Careful if you're eating while reading this! Your chances of choking on that delicious bite are 1 in 3,461.
They're a much more environmentally friendly form of transport than the car, but bicycles aren't without their risk, with 1 in 4,486 people dying in a bike related incident.
Hornets, wasps and bees
These little guys are responsible for pollinating our plants and keeping our world looking and smelling great. But 1 in 63,225 people will die from contact with a hornet, wasp or bee.
Man's best friend isn't always so friendly... the chances of being killed by a dog bite or attack are 1 in 112,400.
A lightning strike is extremely rare - so much so that you can have a better chance of winning the lottery! The chances of a lightning strike taking you down are 1 in 161,856.
At a rate of 0.006 skydives fatalities per 1,000, that's 1 fatality in every 167,000 jumps. This means it's more likely you'll die from a lightning strike, dog bite, wasp sting, bike accident, choking or a motor vehicle crash.
How skydiving safety improves
Safety will always be a hugely important consideration for skydivers. Even as our safety records continue to improve, we refuse to rest on our laurels.
Since the early days of skydiving, there have been some massive advances in technology, equipment, training, and processes.
For example, today's skydiver always jumps with two parachutes - a main and a reserve. This means there is always a 'spare' should the main parachute fail to deploy correctly. The malfunctioning parachute is released by the '3 ring release system', pioneered by Bill Booth in the 1970's.
We use a device called an AAD (automatic activation device) which sits in our parachute pack and monitors our rate of descent and our altitude. In the unlikely event we are unable to deploy our own parachute, the AAD will detect that we are in freefall too low and deploy our reserve parachute for us.
It's not just technology that makes us safer; improvements in processes to help us keep track of our own equipment and well as taking care of each other all help to improve our skydiving safety rates. The USPA even promotes a yearly 'safety day' for all skydivers to attend and ensure their knowledge of safety considerations is up to date.
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