Is Skydiving More Dangerous Than Driving?
It’s often said that you’re more likely to get into a car accident on the way to the dropzone than you are to have an accident while skydiving. Is that true? Hard to say because the numbers aren’t apples to apples.
But here’s what we do know – jumping out of a “perfectly good airplane” should stir questions about safety! Let’s get into some skydiving statistics and talk about our skydiving safety protocols at Skydive Carolina .
Skydiving Statistics (Odds of Dying Skydiving)
Skydiving is an extreme sport. Like others – including SCUBA diving, motocross racing, rock climbing, and snowboarding – it is dangerous. In fact, that’s a major part of the appeal! Human flight is awesome – and living to tell the tale is supremely awesome. Is skydiving more dangerous than driving? Let’s look at the numbers.
In a world where damn-near everything is dangerous, it boils down to calculated risk .
Of the 3.3 million total skydives recorded in 2019 by USPA -member dropzones, 15 resulted in a fatality – making the skydiving death rate 1 in 220,301. When considering the tandem-related skydiving fatality rate, the number is 1 in 500,000 jumps. More common are minor and non-fatal injuries. In 2019, 1 in 1,310 skydives required attention from a medical facility.
To illustrate the unlikelihood of death by skydiving, take a gander at stats from the National Safety Council that reveal you’re more likely to perish by a lightning strike, dog bite, or bee sting! And, according to that same NSC report, 1 in 106 motor-vehicle crashes includes a fatality.
Mitigating the Risk
What makes skydiving crazy-fun rather than super-stupid is the professionalism and stewardship of dropzone owners in tandem with the stringent processes and procedures mandated by the United States Parachute Association – the skydiving safety authority regarding training, licensure, and qualification programs. Founded 75 years ago, the USPA has over 40,000 members and 220 affiliated dropzones nationwide – including Skydive Carolina .
Most critical among safety protocols are:
Well-Maintained Aircraft & Stellar Pilots
At Skydive Carolina, we have three aircraft that have been specifically modified for skydiving and are meticulously maintained. Each of our jump pilots are highly-trained and hella experienced – including DZ gem, Rudy Ribbeck . With our year-round Carolina-blue skies, they happily shepherd everyone from first-time jumpers to old-time pros all day long.
Professional Ground & Sky Team
Every team member plays an important role in safety at the DZ. Two categories to highlight are riggers and instructors –
Parachute riggers pack as well as maintain and repair parachutes. They undergo rigorous training and are licensed by the (FAA) Federal Aviation Administration. At Skydive Carolina, we’re privileged to have Senior Rigger – Patrick Mercier – on staff, in addition to other dope riggers.
The USPA offers four graduated levels of licensure : A through D. A-License holders are new skydivers who approved to fly solo . D-holders are straight-up pros who have a minimum of 500 jumps, can perform large demo and exhibition skydives, and can achieve tandem instructor status. All Skydive Carolina tandem instructors are not only qualified and mega experienced, but they’re also extremely passionate about our sport.
High-Quality Skydiving Gear
In the early days of civilian jumping, skydivers had no choice but to make do with military surplus gear. Now, skydivers have access to sophisticated tech that enables operators to address many safety situations while in flight – including altimeters and AADs (automatic activation device) – and that facilitates experimentation and competition within numerous disciplines .
Unlike back in the day when the majority of skydiving accidents occurred because of gear malfunction, today’s incidents are typically related to human error. This is why there are prescribed curricula for every level of licensure and why we don’t mess around at Skydive Carolina. In fact, we’re known for being conservative when it comes to safety, and we’re proud of it. The only tears we want to see around here are from unprecedented joy, the surge of outstanding accomplishment, and the overwhelm that comes with unimaginable empowerment. Same? Same. Boom.
Ready to Skydive?
Have questions ahead of time? Connect with us . There’s nothing we love more than sharing our amazing sport with any and everyone who’s set on the life-changing experience that is human flight.
How Risky Is Skydiving?
Like everything in this life that’s worth doing, there’s some risk involved in skydiving. Chances are, if you’re asking yourself that question, you’re looking for a real answer –not just an offhand shrug-off. Good news: while tandem skydiving risks are real, it just takes a quick look at the USPA website–which has faithfully gathered skydiving risk statistics for half a century–to see just how risky modern skydiving isn’t .
Since the sport of skydiving is basically all about taking calculated risks in a way that inspires you and fuels your personal power, we’re really happy you’re asking this question! Here’s the answer, in the most thorough way we can express it.
Skydiving Risks Through The Years
In the sport of skydiving, we’re very proud of our safety record. Skydiving has been a widely practiced hobby since the 1970s, and we’ve made enormous strides since then as far as technology and procedures are concerned.
Back when leisure suits, architectural facial hair and disco were celebrated cultural treasures, the USPA logged 42.5 skydiving fatalities– total –per year. It’s important to note that, at that point, tandem skydiving hadn’t even been invented yet. (That landmark sits squarely in 1984.) That higher number probably owes to the fact that skydiving, in its early years as a sport, relied on its hobbyist jumpers to test the equipment as it was being developed: the “piggyback” main/reserve container systems, square parachutes and electronic lifesaving gadgetry that many of today’s jumpers take utterly for granted. Every jump, in a way, was an R&D jump, and the skydiving risk statistics make that fact rather evident.
Skydivers, however, are a hardy bunch. Even under the challenging constraints of less-reliable gear, knuckle-biting jump procedures and very little in the way of rules, that 42.5-per-year fatality rate was surprisingly low for the number of total jumps that were made under those gnarly conditions.
If you tear off a bunch of calendar pages, you’ll notice something awesome about skydiving risk: all that amateur “lab work” had a profound effect! The average fatality rate has steadily and significantly dropped with each passing decade. By 2009, that average had plummeted pretty much in half (25.8, if you’re curious).
Skydiving Risk Statistics Today
So, just yesterday–okay, 2015, if we’re being specific–the United States Parachute Association recorded 21 fatal skydiving accidents in the U.S. out of about 3.5 million sport skydives. If you throw that into a calculator, you’ll see that a sport skydiver–someone who throws themselves under their own parachute out of a perfectly good airplane, on the regular, in a wingsuit or alongside a group of 300 people or carrying an inflatable unicorn–has a 0.006% chance of dying from a skydive. That, dear reader, is the lowest rate in the history of the sport. Those are better odds than you enjoy when you’re driving to work.
Keep that in mind when you’re thinking about the risks of tandem skydiving. Tandem skydiving, as a matter of fact, has an even better safety record. Here’s the deal: there have been only 0.002 student fatalities per 1,000 tandem jumps, worldwide, over the past ten years. The National Safety Council makes the astute observation that you are significantly more likely to kick the bucket by being struck by lightning or by being stung by a bee. Our suggestion? Drive safely to and from the dropzone. That highway stuff is SCARY.
Skydiving Injuries Factor In, Too
Dying–on the unicorn-prancing-across-a-triple-rainbow chance that it happened–would obviously suck. But that’s not the only thing you’re considering, right? You’re worried about potential tandem skydiving injuries , too, and that’s a smart thing to be thinking about. It should go without saying that far more tandem students roll an ankle, scuff a knee or get a bruise.
Here’s the inside scoop, though–that’s something you have control over. To avoid injuries on a tandem skydive, here’s your strategy:
- Go to a responsible dropzone. Most injuries in tandem situations occur when a money-hungry dropzone tries to pack in tandem skydives during inappropriate weather, or when a less-than-professional tandem instructor doesn’t provide the tandem student with thorough, meaningful instruction.
- Listen to your instructor and follow his/her directions explicitly. A responsible dropzone–like ours–will take the time to review your gear, the conditions, the procedures and the plan quite thoroughly before you go up. Listen carefully, and you’ll know what to expect and what’s expected of you. Result: You won’t be caught unawares.
Have more questions? By all means, ask. We’re more than happy to talk to you about any point of curiosity you might have. Rest assured: When you land from that first jump , you’ll understand how the risks of tandem skydiving pale in contrast to the rewards. Don’t hesitate to reach out!
How Dangerous Is Skydiving? Accidents And Death Rates FAQ
Although skydiving can be dangerous in exceptional cases, it is far safer than you might think. The United States Parachute Association statistics show that there were 13 skydiving-related deaths in 2018, out of a total of 3.3 million jumps. In other words, it is more dangerous for you to drive to the dropzone than to skydive.
What are the dangers of skydiving?
Parachute malfunctions are the main risk in skydiving. Parachute malfunctions are the leading cause of parachute openings that don’t go according to plan. There are many known malfunctions.
Another danger is an injury when landing. Tandem students can injure their ankles if they fail to raise their legs for landing.
How likely are you to die from skydiving?
The tandem-related skydiving death rate is 1 in 500,000 jumps. Minor and non-fatal injuries are more common. Out of the 3.3 million skydives that were recorded by USPA members dropzones in 2019, 15 were fatal. This makes the skydiving death ratio 1 in 220.000+.
What is the most dangerous part of skydiving?
Driving to the dropzone is actually the most dangerous moment of skydiving. Tandem skydiving is the safest type of jump with only 0.003 deaths per thousand jumps in the last 10 years. A tandem skydive is more likely to get struck by lightning or win the lottery than to die during a jump.
We get asked a lot about safety when skydiving. This is completely understandable. You might want to be aware of the risks when you try something new. However, skydiving is like any other sport which means that it includes a few risks. Dropzones try to minimize those risks in all that they do so that you can feel safe and enjoy your very first jumps.
How safe is skydiving (honestly)?
We have tons of global data from various skydiving practices around the globe to prove that it is safe and legal. The USPA (United States Parachute Association) has statistics on how many people have jumped and how many had problems.
When it comes to tandem skydiving safety, it is, in essence, “as safe as possible”. Although it sounds like a cliché answer, there are so many safeguards that reduce the risk that skydiving is a very safe practice for most people.
More than a risky practice, skydiving is a thrilling adrenaline-fueled sport that thousands of people around the globe enjoy every year. Do you want hard facts to prove these statements? Then continue to read.
How many people die from skydiving?
People can, unfortunately, die when skydiving, but that usually happens when they are performing advanced maneuvers. However, normal skydiving involving new students or advanced skydivers doing ordinary solo jumps causes far fewer problems. Let’s look at the USPA statistics to help us answer this question in greater detail:
In 2015, the USPA recorded 3.5 million skydive jumps, including both first tandem skydivers as well as experienced solo and AFF skydivers. 21 of those skydiving fatalities were recorded. This is a very low risk.
Tandem skydiving, where you are attached to an experienced instructor for your jump, has a higher safety rate with an average of 0.002 deaths per 1,000 jumps over the past 10 years. Statistics show that you are more likely to be stung or struck by lightning than to die.
What are the risks involved when parachuting?
Advanced maneuvers are the most dangerous part of skydiving. If someone has thousands of jumps, it’s more likely that problems will occur. Parachute work is a technique where the skydiver intentionally increases their descent rate by rapidly turning the parachute. This is known as “swooping” and it aims to increase the speed at which the parachute crosses the ground. In some very few cases, this can lead to injury or death for skydivers.
This means that ”normal” or typical skydives who avoid advanced techniques are very safe. It’s very unlikely that anything will go wrong if you are learning to skydive or if you are an experienced jumper performing an ordinary jump.
However, all forms of skydiving have risks, even if they are absolutely minimal. We’ll discuss how to mitigate those in a moment. These are the main risks associated with skydiving:
Around one in 1,000 parachute openings don’t go according to plan. There are many known malfunctions.
Accident when landing:
Tandem students can sustain injury if they fail to raise their legs for landing.
Injuries in freefall:
When you are jumping with others at high speeds and take a knock accidentally.
How to handle the risks of parachuting?
Skydiving poses the greatest risk due to malfunctioning parachutes. Most dropzones have clear procedures to deal with parachute malfunctions or problems like a broken line. They also have a spare parachute (a reserve), which they deploy when the malfunctioning one is out of action. As a rule of thumb, they are fully prepared for it.
To prevent injuries from landing, tandem students are taught to raise their legs and the staff usually reminds them to do so when landing. Some dropzones teach experienced jumpers a “PLF”, or Parachute Landing Fall, which reduces the impact on your ankles and allows you to roll it off. This type of training for skydiving is military-style. This means that you follow very specific processes, and learn them by repetition.
Fewer skydiving accidents In the future?
In recent years, there have been many improvements to skydiving technology. Everything has been improved to make skydiving safer, from the parachutes used to the AADs used to the audible altitude device.
An AAD (Automatic Activation Device) is used to protect against injuries in freefall. The AAD is a small electronic device monitoring your altitude and descent speed. If you fall at a speed above the parachutes’ recommended height, the AAD automatically deploys your reserve parachute. If you are unable or unwilling to deploy your main parachutes for any reason, the AAD automatically opens them for you.
How likely are you to die from skydiving?
Of the 3.3 million total skydives recorded in 2019 by USPA-member dropzones, 15 resulted in a fatality – making the skydiving death rate 1 in 220,301. When considering the tandem-related skydiving fatality rate, the number is 1 in 500,000 jumps. More common are minor and non-fatal injuries.
What are the main threats of skydiving?
The main skydiving threat is parachute malfunctions. We do not know the odds of a parachute not opening. However, around one in 1,000 parachute openings don’t go to plan, with various known malfunctions.
Another risk is an injury on landing. If tandem students, for example, fail to lift their legs for landing, they can take the impact through their ankles.
What is the most dangerous part of tandem skydiving?
Tandem skydiving has the strongest safety statistics of any type of jump, with only 0.003 fatalities per thousand jumps over the past 10 years. You’re more likely to win the lottery or be struck by lightning or than to die on a tandem skydive. In fact, the most dangerous part of skydiving is driving to the drop zone.