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# Skydiving is inherently dangerous

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Quote

I’ve considered compiling the data myself. I think the best way to go about this is to compare fatalities per hours of involvement in the activity.

This is really the only way to get a good comparison. For a while I toyed with the idea of 'distance traveled', but that made it even more difficult.

Simply put anyone that tries to compare skydiving to another mundane activity to show how 'safe' skydiving is.... Is trying to sell someone (maybe themselves) on how safe it is.... It is not a safe activity. The risks can be mitigated, but to claim that it is 'safe' is false.

When you jump out of a plane, you start a chain of events that unless you perform, perform correctly, and your equipment works correctly.... You WILL die. I can't think of another activity that works that way.
"No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms." -- Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson Papers, 334

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Its fairly easy to make a very rough estimation of how dangerous skydiving is in relation to driving for instance.

USPA estimates that there are about 3,1 million skydives per year and on average about 22 fatalities per year.

Department of Transportation estimates that on average 3,0 trillion miles were travelled in a car.

So, if you try to make it look as good for skydiving as possible you could say that the average skydive is 40 minutes ride to altitude + 2 minutes of freefall + 10 minutes of canopy time, which would give:

(3100000 * ( (40+2+10)/60))/22 ~ 122121,21 hours of activity per fatality

And keeping with the theme of making skydiving to appear as safe as possible, lets say the average driver was driving at 65 miles per hour and using 12 year average on road fatalities, gives:

(3000000000000 / 65)/38000 ~ 1273680,00 hours of activity per fatality

which would make skydiving only about 10 times as dangerous as driving a car. However if you use more realistic number (20 minutes to altitude, 1,5 minutes of freefall, 6 minutes of canopy time) vs. 45 mph average speed with 5 year fatality average, you get:

64583,33 HoAPF for skydiving vs. 2192919,34 HoAPF for driving, making skydiving 34 times more dangerous.

So skydiving is probably 10 to 50 times more dangerous then driving a car.
Your rights end where my feelings begin.

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Yes, this is a dangeours sport!

One issue that clouds this discussion in the USA is that we have no meaningful statistics on skydiving INJURIES. Looking only at fatalities tremendously distorts the percieved "safety" of the sport. I know of DZs with tens of thousands of jumps without a fatality.... but with MANY, MANY serious injuries (some resulting in permenant disability). To ignore non-fatal injury allows folks to decieve themselves that the sport is much safer than it really is.

Yes, injury is more difficult to measure than the binary outcome of death. However, injury can be measured effectively.
The choices we make have consequences, for us & for others!

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The apples/oranges problem has always plagued this debate. Over the last three decades I've been intrigued by various attempts in the academic world to come up with meaningful ways to measure risk in sports and compare those to other quotidian risks.

One method has been to try to equate participant days or hours. For example, if we call a skier participant day 5,000 feet of vertical skied, and a skydiver particpant day 40,000 feet of vertical, is that meaningful? Another method has been to evaluate casualties based on "lifetime participation" which is sometimes defined as 25 years in the sport.

Using the latter, mountaineering above 7,000 meters is hands down the most dangerous sport in the world, with about a 25% casualty rate over the last 30 years.

But wait! 30 years ago hang gliding would be among the most high risk sports in the world. Now it is tolerably safe. Skydiving has undergone a similar transformation, the ratio of deaths per 100,000 jumps is far better now than it was a mere 15 years ago. Yet it might turn the other way soon, for reasons I'm not going to get into in detail. Hint: complacency due to very high equipment reliability, and complacency due to the new demographic of incoming skydivers combined with the rapidly expanding variations of freefall.

So... it isn't really possible to quantify our "safety" effectively against other activities, although I can say for a fact that in my time in the sport about 80 people I know have been killed skydiving, and in the same time frame about four have been killed in car wrecks - that I know of. I'm sure several more died in cars that I didn't hear about, whereas I hear about all the skydiving deaths.

Still, what haunts me is that we KNOW what kills skydivers, even if the direct causes shift with advances in equipment, training, and culture. What is not happening is addressing those known risks effectively.

We could cut skydiving fatalities by 80% in one year if the whole community would agree on some basics, but nobody seems to want to go here due to our culture of individual choice.

Endorsements by qualified instructors before any new freefall activity such as tracking, wing suit, or angle flying.

Complete segregation of HP flight from normal traffic.

Our society is one in which stupid, ignorant, or self destructive behavior is not restricted beyond a point. On the one hand, I sort of like that. On the other hand, from a business standpoint there's a fine line between imposing regulation that I know will be effective, and creating an atmosphere that stifles individual expression.

Safety is a very elusive concept, and just as with cars and government surveilance, there's a constant balancing act between too much and not enough.

Just don't ever tell you Mom that driving to the drop zone is more dangerous than skydiving. It's wrong to lie to your Mom.

Bryan Burke

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Skydiving IS inherently dangerous. The gravitational pull of the 3rd rock from the sun is immensely greater than our puny human abilities to resist. That said, it's funny how safe and comfortable I feel the moment I leave the plane and feel the air around me.

In the old days (1974 - '80) I personally witnessed 5 fatal accidents and knew so many people who went in that I have to sit down and think to make a list of their names. In the ten years since I came back, I've only known 2 or 3 people who've died and only witnessed one fatal accident last fall (which was also different, as the woman lived for another ten days before finally passing away). All in all, things have appreciably improved.

But skydiving will NEVER be completely safe. Gravity and human error are ultimately insurmountable. We are NOT all on death row, waiting for our turn - I reject that reasoning when I hear it, from the people who think so. We CAN go on for tens of thousands of jumps and retire peaceably, but we will all be scared shitless several or many times in the process. Skydiving IS reasonably safe, or I wouldn't do it - as I don't BASE jump or swoop.

I have always said the decision to jump is a complex and intensely personal equation, balancing risk with ability, confidence, and the rewards of a beautiful experience. Right now, I'm on sabbatical and re-examining my own personal equation.

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bryanburke

We could cut skydiving fatalities by 80% in one year if the whole community would agree on some basics, but nobody seems to want to go here due to our culture of individual choice.

Endorsements by qualified instructors before any new freefall activity such as tracking, wing suit, or angle flying.

Complete segregation of HP flight from normal traffic.

Our society is one in which stupid, ignorant, or self destructive behavior is not restricted beyond a point. On the one hand, I sort of like that. On the other hand, from a business standpoint there's a fine line between imposing regulation that I know will be effective, and creating an atmosphere that stifles individual expression.

Not to mention risking creating an atmosphere that straight up pushes people out of the sport. I quit jumping in Australia for several years because of the nanny state safetycrat attitude that permeates the entire culture. It's still here, and it'll keep be from being able to do nearly as many jumps as I would like, but I'm not traveling to the US enough to do my jumps anymore so I'm going to put up with it because I am weak :P
cavete terrae.

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Having this attitude:

"So be careful out there, and respect what you do."

Thanks to the original poster for this!

Is what is going to save your ass, not numbers or blaming safety Nazi's.

The military is full of rules, using your logic then they should be more or less safe? The point being the rules in the military are embraced and welcomed by all.

It's the attitude you hold and how prepared are you to follow the rules? As compared with thrill seeking??? Shit happens fast folks...and the incidents show again and again your experience doesn't matter but your attitude does!

C
But what do I know, "I only have one tandem jump."

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>Complete segregation of HP flight from normal traffic.

Note on this - the group member pledge currently requires separate HP and standard pttern landing areas. Any jumper who finds himself with only one available landing area where HP landings are going on should ask their DZO if they intend to honor the pledge they signed.

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grue

Not to mention risking creating an atmosphere that straight up pushes people out of the sport. I quit jumping in Australia for several years because of the nanny state safetycrat attitude that permeates the entire culture. It's still here, and it'll keep be from being able to do nearly as many jumps as I would like, but I'm not traveling to the US enough to do my jumps anymore so I'm going to put up with it because I am weak :P

Doesn't Aussieland permit...
-swooping
-wing suiting
-group tracking
-group atmo
-bigways
-other
...you know...all that dangerous stuff?

My bet is yes...it just takes a little longer to get there.
I see no problem with that.

Here in the U.S., it's not about "freedom"...not really...even though they will claim as much.
It's about instant gratification. That's what the kids want.
My reality and yours are quite different.
I think we're all Bozos on this bus.
Falcon5232, SCS8170, SCSA353, POPS9398, DS239

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Quote

Canopy doesn't open? You die. Canopy opens? That can kill you, too. Canopy opens fine? Most deaths occur under good canopies.

Ha, that's rich!

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Arvoitus

So, if you try to make it look as good for skydiving as possible you could say that the average skydive is 40 minutes ride to altitude.

Wow, just how high are you going?
...

The only sure way to survive a canopy collision is not to have one.

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kallend

***

So, if you try to make it look as good for skydiving as possible you could say that the average skydive is 40 minutes ride to altitude.

Wow, just how high are you going?

Warm day in a Cessna, sounds about right
cavete terrae.

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bryanburke

On the other hand, from a business standpoint there's a fine line between imposing regulation that I know will be effective, and creating an atmosphere that stifles individual expression.

Very good post. I've had the pleasure of discussing these issues with you at LP.

I'm afraid the "cool factor" that Bill Booth talks about will continue to kill people in our sport for years to come. RSL's, big canopies and normal landing just don't get the chicks, man.

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popsjumper

Doesn't Aussieland permit...
-swooping
-wing suiting
-group tracking
-group atmo
-bigways
-other
...you know...all that dangerous stuff?

My bet is yes...it just takes a little longer to get there.
I see no problem with that.

By and large, yes. My issue is with blanket requirements on AADs. It's already fucking expensive to jump here, and that doesn't help :P
cavete terrae.

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bryanburke

The apples/oranges problem has always plagued this debate. Over the last three decades I've been intrigued by various attempts in the academic world to come up with meaningful ways to measure risk in sports and compare those to other quotidian risks.
..................

Just don't ever tell you Mom that driving to the drop zone is more dangerous than skydiving. It's wrong to lie to your Mom.

Bryan Burke

Comparing time taking part in the sport or number of jumps to number of journeys in my opinion does not really work. You are then trying to break down how you fit in with the wider group that takes part in the activity.

I always look at it this way ( all info based on German statistics).

There are 57 million people in Germany with a driving license ( ok, not all of them drive), there are about 4000 deaths a year on the roads. So if you drive a car you have about a 1 in 14000 chance of dying in a single year if you drive..

There are 11,000 people with a skydiving license (ok, not all of them still jump), there are about 5 deaths per year skydiving. So you have about a 1 in 2000 chance of dying in a single year if you skydive.

Who are the unlucky ones in either activity? Certainly in skydiving it's not just the inexperienced or the one time jumpers and the same goes for car drivers.

You are correct sir, you don't lie to your mom.
Dave

Fallschirmsport Marl

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JohnMitchell

***

On the other hand, from a business standpoint there's a fine line between imposing regulation that I know will be effective, and creating an atmosphere that stifles individual expression.

Very good post. I've had the pleasure of discussing these issues with you at LP.

I'm afraid the "cool factor" that Bill Booth talks about will continue to kill people in our sport for years to come. RSL's, big canopies and normal landing just don't get the chicks, man.

What he said !!! Do not forget having Mini rings (cause they look cool) rather than standard rings which Mr Booth recommends. (and he designed them.. he should know)
I tend to be a bit different. enjoyed my time in the sport or is it an industry these days ??

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popsjumper

***
Not to mention risking creating an atmosphere that straight up pushes people out of the sport. I quit jumping in Australia for several years because of the nanny state safetycrat attitude that permeates the entire culture. It's still here, and it'll keep be from being able to do nearly as many jumps as I would like, but I'm not traveling to the US enough to do my jumps anymore so I'm going to put up with it because I am weak :P

Doesn't Aussieland permit...
-swooping
-wing suiting
-group tracking
-group atmo
-bigways
-other
...you know...all that dangerous stuff?

My bet is yes...it just takes a little longer to get there.
I see no problem with that.

Here in the U.S., it's not about "freedom"...not really...even though they will claim as much.
It's about instant gratification. That's what the kids want.

It doesn't even take very long to get there. Most crests that qualify you for specifics (e.g. bigways) only require 3 or 4 successful jumps!

I'm getting sick of the bitching about rules here. A proposal was recently floated/leaked regarding standardizing penalties for safety violations. So for example not wearing a seat belt will earn the same penalty regardless of dz.

Australia is big on rules in all aspects of life, but they also have a culture of ignoring rules. So often the potential benefits are lost.
Experienced jumper - someone who has made mistakes more often than I have and lived.

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nigel99

A proposal was recently floated/leaked regarding standardizing penalties for safety violations. So for example not wearing a seat belt will earn the same penalty regardless of dz.

…and if it happens the way they outlined it, I'll once again quit jumping here, and probably just move.
cavete terrae.

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I would want to make a different wording: Skydiving has loads of inherent risks - which can, to some degree, be dealt with so that the sport becomes (and is for the most part) survivable. the only time it gets downright dangerous/way beyond being "risky" is when people forget how to make clean, right, thoughtfull decisions before entering (or even being right on the edge of) the danger zone.

examples for a good start taking a break?
• how many times have you boarded a plane when you were not sure about winds & weatherconditions?
• how many times have you boarded a plane in the morning after some heavy partying the night before?
• how many times were you one of the TI's that went on a tandemload just because everyone else on schedule went and you didn't want to be the only one making objections (or loose your job just because...)?
• how many time DID you ride the plane down ON PURPOSE because the conditions were against jumping?
• how many time did you abort a planned swoop/hp-landing just because your gutfeeling told you not to?
• how many times did you really step off a load because the plans for the dive were to sketchy or you felt uneasy about the people on the dive? zoo-load anybody?
• how many times have you found yourself way below break-off-altitude or under your hard-deck?
•how many times did you come back from a jump, put your gear down and thought: phew, that could have turned out real nasty because I fucked up?

These are just a few examples coming to my mind, some from my own experience, some of the I witnessed.

Bottom line: I think that to often we miss/skip the chance to take a break and re-evaluate our decisions. if the decision sould be a no-go then stick to it. other than missing a load or loosing a day of juming this break could mean that your last jump is still far in the future and not 20 minutes ahead

The universal aptitude for ineptitude makes any human accomplishment an incredible miracle

dudeist skydiver # 666

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Seat belts!! Not once in 22 jumps at a certain drop zone in Victoria did any one wear a seat belt on any of loads NOT ONCE !!
I tend to be a bit different. enjoyed my time in the sport or is it an industry these days ??

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gregpso

Seat belts!! Not once in 22 jumps at a certain drop zone in Victoria did any one wear a seat belt on any of loads NOT ONCE !!

Don't worry about 'anyone else'...did YOU?

I mean of course DID you...before they threw you off the place & told ya not to come back ?

~ If you choke a Smurf, what color does it turn? ~

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airtwardo

***Seat belts!! Not once in 22 jumps at a certain drop zone in Victoria did any one wear a seat belt on any of loads NOT ONCE !!

Don't worry about 'anyone else'...did YOU?

I mean of course DID you...before they threw you off the place & told ya not to come back ?

It was ok, they all had sky hooks.
Experienced jumper - someone who has made mistakes more often than I have and lived.

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This so reminds me of an incident years ago when we (all instructors) were discussing canopies when someone suggested I jump his rig and try it out (alarm bells went off) I said OK, the rig was more or less standard so I felt comfortable with it. When I geared up, the owner came over and said to watch out for the pilot chute because it had a habit of sitting on his back (sniveling) I looked him in the face and asked him why he didn't fix it (we were both riggers) He said it didn't bother him as he knew all about it. I took the gear off and scrubbed myself from the load. I've had a dozen reserve rides and I don't need to go looking for another one. I believe instructors owe it to their students to be as safe as possible and not jump with questionable gear. I've known a few people who died because they didn't follow this simple principle.

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Warning: long post.

OK, so I have a grand total of 2 jumps and this EXACT question comes up to me all the time. People say "Why are you trying to kill yourself". I hear it every day, so I try to provide them numbers.

The reality is that there is no way to PROPERLY assign risk between sports that can not be similarly measured. just like you cant add minutes, inches, and barometric pressure to get weight.

You CAN compare things like various skydive facilities, maybe skydiving against base jumping; even could probably rate things like RW or CR vs standard jumps vs tandems etc.

The issue is the units of measure can not be correlated. you have something like a 1:1000 chance of death per 10,000 automotive miles driven yearly. That's a national average comparing average commuting miles, number of drivers, number of deaths. How then can we compare skydiving? what is 10,000 mile equivalents in freefall time or jumps? How do we interrelate hop-n-pop canopy time to freefall exposure?

The only way to properly gauge skydiving would be:
1) deaths per members (number of yearly deaths/active members)
2) Number of deaths per jump yearly by all members (deaths/jumps measured yearly)
3) Deaths per average jumps (deaths/[jumps/members])

I can go on and on but there simply is not a good way to quantify the risk for these activities.

The other issue is your "N". The numbers. If you compare our sport to others.... there are relatively small numbers of members. This means a few things: first there is probably not enough power in the numbers to make an accurate estimate since even a single additional fatality makes a non-trivial change in rate. Second, comparison requires similar "power" of the numbers. LOTS of drivers (the numbers are staggering), LOTS of accidents (even more staggering), a few million skydives, a tiny number of deaths. Its not apples and oranges, its more like apples and particle physics. Not even close.

Let me provide a few numbers I've found that are equally interesting, but not proper statistics:

17 people per year die in result to drawstrings on "hoodie" sweatshirts
20 people die of dog bites (why I'm a cat person?)
47 of hurricanes
188 in lightning related deaths
300-400 people die of CJD (human mad-cow disease)
300 women die in childbirth
another 300 in heat related deaths
211 people die from car hitting a deer
1200 from carbon monoxide
700-800 from recreational boating
800 or so on bicycles and another 800 relating to rail trains
2500 motorcyclists perish
2500 people die while driving a car and talking on a phone
4500 in fires
17,000 die due to drunk drivers (not including the person drinking)
31,000 suicides
50,000 (approximate) motor vehicle deaths
150,000 from medical malpractice
170,000 from diabetes
200,000 from influenza (epidemic years)
300,000 from complications of obesity
500,000 from cancer
750,000 and growing from heart disease

and those numbers are just the US yearly

Skydiving in modern times... are 40-60 worldwide I believe

So is it dangerous? Sure. So is living. I think "fight club" said it best with "On a long enough timeline everyone's survivability approaches zero". The question of risk is one which can only be answered by the individual. It is a question of "how much risk is too much". It is also a question of risk:reward. Do you get more out of it than the risk.

You can not use numbers to determine safety anyhow. Statistics do not apply to the individual. Anyone who was killed skydiving has a "100%" chance of death. Every jump you safely land you have a "0%" chance of dying. Statistics only apply to populations.

Respect the sport, understand the risks, and make the decision based on your particular lifestyle. Don't let the numbers sway you, but recognize even going out of your house carries risk (50 people a year die from bee stings!)
You are not the contents of your wallet.

Derp!

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