Accidents happen — and these are some of the ways Americans have met untimely deaths over the years.
Death is an inescapable part of life. In the US, the average person can expect to reach their 78th birthday, according to 2017 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The most common causes of death are heart disease and cancer — with accidents rounding out the top three.
We’ve gathered the odds of dying in accidents and other circumstances. Some of these statistics may surprise you.
The risk of dying in a plane crash is 1 in 11 million
It’s common to have a fear of flying. But this 10-year average from researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health might help ease your worries.
As for car crashes, the number is closer to 1 in 114
Your daily car commute is far more dangerous than a plane ride, according to 2017 National Safety Council data.
The odds of dying while walking across the street are 1 in 647
Believe it or not, the National Safety Council finds that being a pedestrian is still safer than driving a car.
Elevators and escalators kill about 30 people each year
Need a reason to take the stairs? Around 30 people die due to elevators and escalators each year, according to a 2013 Center for Construction Research and Training report. About 90% of those deaths are linked to elevators, many involving maintenance workers falling into the elevator shaft.
NATURAL DISASTERS AND EXTREME WEATHER
The odds of being struck by lightning are 1 in 700,000
Flash fact: You can be struck by lightning when the center of the storm is up to 10 miles away, according to NOAA and National Geographic. Lightning sparks can contain a hundred million electrical volts and heat up the air by as much as 50,000 degrees.
There’s a 1 in 31,394 chance you will die in a “cataclysmic storm.”
Tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards and dust storms fall under this umbrella, according to 2017 Insurance Information Institute data.
As for flash floods, the odds are 1 in 153,482
Some parts of the US are particularly prone to flash flooding, such as the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. If you’re wondering about the risk attached to those intense storms, the Insurance Information Institute confirms the above odds.
There’s a 1 in 1.6 million chance of dying after being hit by a meteor
Meteors are a rare celestial event — and it’s highly unlikely you’ll die as a result of a fireball hurtling its way toward Earth, according to the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder.
More than 160 people died as a result of extreme heat in 2018
Weather-related deaths are on the rise, and heat waves caused the most deaths of this type in 2018, killing 162 people, according to the National Safety Council. Infants and children, seniors over 65 and people with chronic health conditions are at highest risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
HEALTH AND MEDICAL INCIDENTS
You face a very slim chance of dying during surgery: 0.012%
To get this stat, researchers from the University of Copenhagen studied 7,306 patients undergoing abdominal, urological, gynecological or orthopedic surgery. Of these, 0.05% died as a result of anaesthesia, 0.012% died during surgery and 0.1% passed away while recovering from surgery.
Flu vaccinations result in 1 to 2 deaths for every 1 million doses
Vaccines are a hallmark of modern medicine. The risk of dying from a vaccine-related complication is extremely low, according to researchers from the Immunization Safety Office and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The odds of dying due to a drug overdose are 1 in 68
But that’s not all. Opioids — both legal and illegal — come with a 1 in 96 risk of dying, according to the 2017 Insurance Information Institute data. Of the 70,237 drug overdose deaths recorded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2017, 47,600 were linked to opiods.
ANIMALS AND INSECTS
The chances of dying due to a venomous snake bite are 1 in 50 million
Around six people die each year due to poisonous snake bites, according to the University of Florida’s Department of Ecology and Conservation.
The odds of falling victim to a shark attack are 1 in 3.7 million
If you’re scared of sharks, you’re far from alone. But Florida Museum’s International Shark Attack File records just 30 shark-related deaths between 1900 and 2009. To put this into perspective, the researchers highlighted that you’re much more likely to die from the flu.
The risk of dying in a bear attack is a little higher
The same study found that black bears caused 63 fatalities between 1900 and 2009, with the majority of those deaths occurring in Canada and Alaska.
And the odds of dying at the hands of a hornet, wasp or bee are 1 in 63,225
These buzzing insects can have deadly bites, according to the National Safety Council.
Each year, around 48 million people come down with food poisoning — and 3,000 people die from it
Be careful about what you eat. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 1 in 6 Americans get sick annually from foodborne diseases. The most common culprits are pathogens like salmonella.
The odds of choking to death are 1 in 2,696
Eat one bite at a time and chew your food thoroughly, and you should be fine. But some people aren’t so lucky, according to the National Safety Council.
The odds of dying in a terrorist attack are 1 in 30.1 million
Between 2008 and 2015, the chance of dying in a terrorist attack on US soil was minuscule, according to 2018 Cato Institute research.
SPORTS AND OTHER ACCIDENTS
For every 253,669 jumps, 1 skydiver dies
Skydiving has gotten a lot safer over the years. In the 1970s, the extreme sport averaged around 43 deaths per year. Fast-forward to 2018, and just 13 fatalities were recorded out of 3.3 million jumps, according to the United States Parachute Association.
Your odds of dying at the hands of an accidental gun firing is 1 in 8,527
Firearms are no joke, and the risk of dying due to an accidental discharge is higher than you might think, according to the National Safety Council.
The chance of dying due to a fall is 1 in 127
Elderly people are most susceptible to falling down the stairs, according to the National Safety Council. But don’t let that stop you from getting up and out there — staying active is one way to prevent falls.
The odds of drowning in a pool or bath are 1 in 1,188
The National Safety Council includes falling into a swimming pool in its figure.
Since 1970, there’s been at least one hazing-related death on a college campus each year
Hazing may be a time-honored tradition at college campuses across the country — but it can be a dangerous one. An 2017 investigation in The Economist found 40 deaths between 2007 and 2017 alone. The main cause? Alcohol poisoning.
Can you die from laughter?
Nope. Though many people say they “died laughing,” it’s simply a colloquialism. The Annals of Internal Medicine confirms there are no recorded cases of laughter-induced death — though there are reports of people passing out or having seizures as a result of laughing fits.
- NOVA: How risky is flying? 2006
- National Safety Council: Injury facts chart, 2017
- Center for Construction Research and Training: Deaths and injuries involving elevators and escalators, 2013
- National Geographic: Flash facts about lightning, 2005
- Insurance Information Institute: Odds of dying from accidental injuries, 2017
- Southwest Research Institute: Update on NASA policy regarding the asteroid impact hazard, 2007
- National Safety Council: Weather-related deaths and injuries, 2019
- University of Copenhagen: A prospective study of mortality associated with anaesthesia and surgery, 1990
- Immunization Safety Office and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Deaths following vaccination, 2005
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Drug and opioid-involved overdose deaths, 2017
- University of Florida’s Department of Ecology and Conservation: Venomous snake FAQs, 2012
- Florida Museum: International shark attack file, 2014
- CATO Institute: More Americans die in animal attacks than terrorist attacks, 2018
- United States Parachute Association: Skydiving safety, 2017
- The Economist: Hazing deaths of American college campuses remain far too common, 2017
A life insurance policy can offer peace of mind
Just 57% of Americans have life insurance — which leaves 43% uninsured. If you have loved ones who depend on you financially or assets to protect, a life insurance policy can provide much-needed income if you die unexpectedly.
You can also look into accidental death and dismemberment insurance, which pays out if you die or are seriously injured in an accident.
To explore your policy options, compare life insurance companies to find the best fit for your lifestyle, budget and financial goals.