Life Insurance Is No Accident: the Odds of Dying While Biking, Flying or at Home

NerdWallet studied data to figure the odds of accidental death from several causes.
Jeffrey ChuOct 27, 2015

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Your home is your castle, a place where you're safe from the dangers of the world. Or so you think.

The odds of dying in an accident at home — such as falling down the stairs, a 1 in 1,884 chance — are more likely than those of being in a fatal airplane crash, a 1 in 8,015 chance, according to NerdWallet, which calculated the lifetime probability of various events that could cause your demise.

If that makes you want to flee your home, be sure to stop at the sidewalk and look both ways. You face an even greater risk of dying by walking across the street, a 1 in 704 chance. NerdWallet, which educates consumers about personal finance topics such as purchasing life insurance, examined data from the National Safety Council Injury Facts 2015, Postgraduate Medical Journal and Great Plains Veterinary Educational Center in this study.

Of course, the leading causes of death in the U.S. are related to illnesses, such as heart disease or cancer. You have a 1 in 7 chance of dying from one of those two causes. Meeting your end in an accident is less common, but it’s still worth knowing the odds in the following scenarios.

At home

It’s where many of us spend most of our time outside of work. So what should you watch out for? Fire tops the list, followed closely by falling down the stairs.

Chances of dying by:

Fire: 1 in 1,820

Falling down the stairs: 1 in 1,884

Accidental suffocation in bed: 1 in 5,721

Drowning in your pool: 1 in 6,072

Drowning in your bathtub: 1 in 9,186


Foodborne illness strikes 48 million people a year in the U.S., according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Still, your chances of dying from food poisoning are remote. You have a much greater risk of choking to death on food. So remember what mom used to say: Don’t stuff your mouth. And chew your food.

Chances of dying by:

Choking on food: 1 in 3,375

Food poisoning: 1 in 3,000,000

For sports enthusiasts

Extreme sports provide that element of danger that thrill-seekers crave. Yet some activities are more perilous than you might think. For example, you’re more likely to die on a mountain hike than while skiing the slopes. If scuba diving makes you anxious, keep in mind that you’re much better off underwater than hang gliding through the air.

Chances of dying by:

Mountaineering: 1 in 167

Hang gliding: 1 in 560

Mountain hiking: 1 in 15,625

Scuba diving: 1 in 34,483

Skiing: 1 in 1,000,000

In transit

Put your fear of flying aside once and for all; riding your bike down the street or driving a car — which doesn’t include pickup trucks or vans — is far riskier than air travel. Dying in an airplane is the most unlikely event on this list, and it’s important to note that 91% of aviation fatalities occur from general aviation, which includes all civilian flying except scheduled passenger airlines. Also, if you thought riding a motorcycle was dangerous, consider how much risk you take each day just crossing the street.

Chances of dying by:

Riding in a car: 1 in 470

Walking across the street: 1 in 704

Riding a motorcycle: 1 in 911

Biking: 1 in 4,545

Flying in an airplane: 1 in 8,015

Animals and insects

Dog bites are common, but dying from one isn’t. The risk of fatality is much higher with snakes, lizards and bees.

Chances of dying by:

Venomous snake and lizard bites: 1 in 42,120

A run-in with hornets, wasps and bees: 1 in 55,764

Being bitten by a dog: 1 in 116,448

Weather and natural events

The Gulf and Atlantic coasts, which already get hit regularly by intense storms, may see an increase in floods by several hundredfold, according to a study in the science journal Nature Climate Change. And in the Pacific Northwest, seismologists warn of an inevitable earthquake that will be “the really big one.” But if you want to know what you should be worried about today, it’s extreme temperatures: Freezing cold and severe heat currently are the deadliest weather conditions.

Chances of dying by:

Extreme cold weather: 1 in 5,892

Extreme hot weather: 1 in 6,745

A flood: 1 in 158,369

Getting struck by lightning: 1 in 164,968

An earthquake: 1 in 179,965

As scary as all of this might seem, the odds of succumbing to any of these scenarios are pretty long. But if you want to ensure that your loved ones have a financial safety net, learn more about life insurance. You can learn about the difference in policies and whether it makes sense for you.

NerdWallet staff writer Anna Helhoski contributed to this article.

Infographic by Enrico M Limcaco

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