Unexpectedly Intriguing!
March 19, 2008

What are the odds of dying in a given year as a result of being bitten by a poisonous snake in the U.S.? How about exposure to radiation? What are the odds that you'll die as a result of medical or surgical complications in your lifetime?

These are exactly the kinds of questions that the statisticians of the U.S. National Safety Council have considered, and for which they have posted the odds that someone in the U.S. will die of either in a single year, or during their lifetime, based upon the number of recorded occurrences of each non-natural cause of death in 2004.

We've taken a handful of that data and presented it in a dynamic table below, which you can sort according to the various column headings. We'll have some interesting observations below the table....

National Safety Council Odds of Dying in the U.S.
Type of Accident or Manner of Injury Deaths in 2004 Odds of Death in Any Given Year Odds of Death in Lifetime
All - All External Causes of Mortality 167,184 00,001,756 to 1 000,023 to 1
Assault - All 017,357 00,016,919 to 1 000,217 to 1
Assault - Firearm 011,624 00,025,263 to 1 000,324 to 1
Intentional Self Harm 032,439 00,009,053 to 1 000,116 to 1
Legal Intervention - All 000,372 00,789,400 to 1 010,134 to 1
Legal Intervention - Execution 000,052 05,647,247 to 1 072,494 to 1
Legal Intervention - Involving Firearm Discharge 000,311 00,944,324 to 1 012,121 to 1
Medical and Surgical Care Complications 002,883 00,101,858 to 1 001,308 to 1
Operations of War - All 000,028 10,487,744 to 1 134,631 to 1
Transport Accidents - All 047,385 00,006,197 to 1 000,080 to 1
Transport Accidents - Motor Vehicle 044,933 00,006,535 to 1 000,084 to 1
Unintentional - Alcohol Poisoning 000,358 00,820,271 to 1 010,530 to 1
Unintentional - All 063,959 00,004,591 to 1 000,059 to 1
Unintentional - Bitten or Struck by a Dog 000,027 10,876,179 to 1 139,617 to 1
Unintentional - Bitten or Struck by Other Mammals 000,077 03,813,725 to 1 048,957 to 1
Unintentional - Cataclysmic Storm 000,063 04,661,220 to 1 059,836 to 1
Unintentional - Contact with Hornets, Wasps and Bees 000,052 05,647,247 to 1 072,494 to 1
Unintentional - Contact with Venomous Snakes and Lizards 000,006 48,942,807 to 1 628,277 to 1
Unintentional - Exposure - All Forces of Nature 001,102 00,266,476 to 1 003,421 to 1
Unintentional - Exposure - Earthquake 000,030 09,788,561 to 1 125,655 to 1
Unintentional - Exposure - Excessive Natural Cold 000,676 00,434,404 to 1 005,576 to 1
Unintentional - Exposure - Excessive Natural Heat 000,226 01,299,367 to 1 016,680 to 1
Unintentional - Exposure to Electric Transmission Lines 000,094 03,124,009 to 1 040,103 to 1
Unintentional - Exposure to Radiation 0 N/A N/A
Unintentional - Firearms Discharge 000,649 00,452,476 to 1 005,808 to 1
Unintentional - Flood 000,022 13,348,038 to 1 171,348 to 1

We found it pretty interesting that Americans are more likely to die in an earthquake than they are in operations of war, or for that matter, just about any force of nature, which suggests that a lot of Gaia-worshipping, anti-war protesters really might need to rethink their worldview. We'll also note that global warming may not be a such a bad thing, seeing as three times as many people die from exposure to excessive natural cold than die from exposure to excessive natural heat. At least, it's not a bad thing if you really care about people.

Now, what we won't do is compute your odds of dying if some of these events are combined into some sort of event that might earn the unlucky individual a Darwin Award, such as simultaneously handling venomous snakes during a cataclysmic storm while being suspended from electric transmission lines near a beehive while being attacked by a dog in the course of a legal intervention.

But only because we think that's less likely than being exposed to radiation.


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