Infographic: The Odds of Dying from Various Accidents
Fatal accidents account for a significant number of deaths in the U.S. every year. For example, nearly 43,000 Americans died in traffic accidents in 2021.
Without the right context, however, it can be difficult to properly interpret these figures.
To help you understand your chances, we’ve compiled data from the National Safety Council, and visualized the lifetime odds of dying from various accidents.
Data and Methodology
The lifetime odds presented in this graphic were estimated by dividing the one-year odds of dying by the life expectancy of a person born in 2020 (77 years).
Additionally, these numbers are based on data from the U.S., and likely differ in other countries.
|Type of Accident||Lifetime odds of dying (1 in #)|
|Motor vehicle accident||101|
|Complications of medical and surgical care||798|
|Accidental building fire||1,825|
|Choking on food||2,745|
|Drowning in swimming pool||5,782|
|Accidental firearm discharge||7,998|
|Bee or wasp sting||57,825|
For comparison’s sake, the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot are 1 in 292,000,000. In other words, you are 4000x more likely to die by a lightning strike over your lifetime than to win the Powerball lottery.
Continue reading below for further context on some of these accidents.
Motor Vehicle Accidents
Motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of accidental deaths in the U.S., with a 1 in 101 chance of dying. This is quite a common way of dying, especially when compared to something like bee stings (1 in 57,825).
Unfortunately, a major cause of vehicle deaths is impaired driving. The CDC reports that 32 Americans are killed every day in crashes involving alcohol, which equates to one death every 45 minutes.
For further context, consider this: 30% of all traffic-related deaths in 2020 involved alcohol-impaired drivers.
The odds of drowning in a swimming pool (1 in 5,782) are significantly higher than those of drowning in general (1 in 10,386). According to the CDC, there are 4,000 fatal drownings every year, which works out to 11 deaths per day.
Drowning also happens to be a leading cause of death for children. It is the leading cause for kids aged 1-4, and second highest cause for kids aged 5-14.
A rather surprising fact about drowning is that 80% of fatalities are male. This has been attributed to higher rates of alcohol use and risk-taking behaviors.
Accidental Firearm Discharge
Lastly, let’s look at accidental firearm deaths, which have lifetime odds of 1 in 7,998. That’s higher than the odds of drowning (general), as well as dying in an airplane accident.
This shouldn’t come as a major surprise, since the U.S. has the highest rates of gun ownership in the world. More importantly, these odds highlight the importance of properly securing one’s firearms, as well as learning safe handling practices.
As a percentage of total gun-related deaths (45,222 in 2020), accidental shootings represent a tiny 1%. The two leading causes are suicide (54%) and homicide (43%).
Interested in learning more about death? Revisit one of our most popular posts of all time: Visualizing the History of Pandemics.