Skydiving is not stamp collecting this much we know. However, in the class of extreme sports professionals consider it, to be one of the safest. For many, it seems inconceivable that the word safe and skydive could even be used in the same sentence. After all, the sport does involve climbing to great altitudes in a small plane, strapping a pack with a fabric parachute to your back and jumping to the ground!
Two things are sure. One, skydiving is an incredibly popular sport that continues to draw more and more “extremer’s” each year. Two, the number of skydiving related deaths continue to decline. What this tells us, is that even though more and more people are participating in this extreme sport, fewer and fewer are dying. According to the Dropzone.com’s Skydiving Fatalities Database, 53 people died worldwide in skydiving related accidents in 2010, and only 24 died in 2011. Landings accounted for 32% of these deaths. Contrary to popular belief, equipment malfunctions only accounted for 16% of these deaths.
When we look at skydiving safety compared to driving a car it looks almost passive. Many more people die each year in auto related accidents than in skydiving. When all the numbers are crunched, you would have to jump 17 times in a year for your risk of dying to be equal to your risk of dying in a car accident if you drive 10,000 miles per year.
Accidents do happen in skydiving and are usually related to human error. This can include violations in procedures and protocol. Out of 2,000,000 skydiving jumps per year there are those people who either did not comprehend the instructions or who decided to ignore them. Unfortunately, errors in judgment are not easily corrected in a sport of such great speed. Sometimes, there just is not enough time to correct a mistake.
The FAA has minimal regulations governing skydiving safety beyond the airplane and the equipment. They do not have any rules for student training or equipment quality beyond minimum standards. However, most reputable companies conduct thorough inspections of all equipment and put students through rigorous safety training prior to jumping. In a sense, skydiving is a self-regulated sport. In the United States, the U.S. Parachute Administration, an organization that works hard to improve the safety of the sport, outlines strict safety requirements.
Because there are risks involved in skydiving, companies have all divers sign a waiver acknowledging that they understand these risks. These agreements cover the company for death resulting in operator (human) error but do not cover them if the death is due to a product or equipment malfunction.
Do Your Research
Before singing up to dive with any company do your research. This means checking into safety history, regulations, accident reports and references.
We take risks each day, and there are certainly risks involved in the extreme sport of skydiving. If you object to any risk, you should keep your feet firmly on the ground. For many thrills seekers, however, the risks are well worth it! Happy diving!