In an article in London’s daily mirror, it was reported that papers released from secret government archives revealed that in 1980 government scientists were told by their bosses to calculate the exact chances of a British citizen being killed by an asteroid falling from the skies. This may seem an odd task, but the rationale was couched in an odd bit of marketing strategy that the public could be persuaded that nuclear power was safe when there were in fact plenty of other things that were statistically more lethal than a neighbourhood reactor. It turned out that the you are less likely to die from the power station’s radiation leaks than being in a plane crash but more likely to meet your maker in a terrorist incident. What are the odds of other exotic and less frequently occurring ways of kicking the bucket? Math heads – please be kind if posting comments!
1. Fatal Shark Attack : 300,000,000/1
Statistics compiled and analyzed by the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida show that while the chances of being attacked by a shark a mere 11.5 million to 1, five times higher than drowning at the beach, the chances of a fatal attack approach 300 million to one. Interestingly, the highest number of documented shark attacks in 2008 was in Florida (32), followed by Australia at (12).
2. Accident on a Streetcar : 275,000,000/1
3. Hit By a Falling Coconut : 250,000,000/1
Coconuts reportedly kill around 150 people every year, but this remains one of the great potential urban myths of our time. Certainly when falling from a height of the top of a coconut palm, they can build up an impact speed of 50 mph, enough to easily crack a human skull. However, as this has yet to be proven as myth or fact, the legend lives on, maybe because it’s just cool to think that coconuts are deadly.
4. Plane Crash : 13,000,000/1
Plane crashes worldwide claim 1,300 people every year, while by comparison over 1,300 people die annually in the US by falling down the stairs. Typically 20-25% of passengers in airline accidents will survive, though as many as half (around 12%) of passengers who survive the impact will die from shock later. Though the odds of being killed in plane accident are 13 million/1 for the group of Top 25 best safety records, the odds fall to 1.5 million/1 if you are in an airline in the bottom 25 worst safety ratings.
5. Killed By The Escape Of Radiation From A Nearby Nuclear Power Station : 10,000,000/1
The chances of an explosion at a nuclear reactor are increasing with the risk of terrorism and as conventional fuels run out. The Chernobyl nuclear disaster and its aftermath has killed an estimated 30,000 people. However, as far as measurable risk, it is less than dying in a flood, being bitten by a venomous spider or being hit by fireworks.
6. Dying In Terrorist Attack : 9,300,000/1
Naturally this depends on where you live, and what part of the world you happen to spend time in. In 2008 there were 273 significant international terrorist attacks worldwide, killing an estimated 3,500 people.
7. Left-Handed People Killed Using A Right-Handed Product: 7,000,000/1
It has been estimated that over 2,000 left-handed people are killed every year around the world from using equipment meant for right-handed people. The right-handed power saw is the most deadly item. Yet, this has not been accurately tracked or proven, so remains a guess at best or myth at worst…
8. Scalded By Hot Tap Water: 4,400,000/1
Sadly, children under five are most at risk, with an average of just over 100 accidents reported every year in the US. In Japan, around 150 people die from hot water scalding every year.
9. Struck (and Killed) by Lightning : 4,000,000/1
In the US, an average of 50-60 people are killed by lightning each year, while the of deaths attributed to bee stings is 54 on average, and 65 people die each year from mammal bites (yes, not any animal, but mammals specifically!). So, maybe you are better off to play golf in the rain than to picnic on the green. Some research says as low as 750,000/1 while others say as high as 4 million/1.
10. Dying Of a Snake Bite : 3,500,000/1
Only about 400 of 3,000 snake species worldwide inject venom. It has been estimated that 5 million snakebites occur worldwide each year, causing about 125,000 deaths. More people die from snakebite in India than in any other country in the world, with the total death toll there estimated at 10 – 12,000 annually. Five to ten deaths occur per year from snakebites in the United States.
11. Dying From Food Poisoning : 3,000,000/1
The CDC reported in 2009 that food related diseases are responsible for 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths in the United States each year. Although more than 200 known diseases are transmitted through food, approximately 30% of these deaths result from the “big three”: Salmonella, Listeria, and Toxoplasma.
12. Dying From Falling Off A Ladder : 2,300,000/1
On average 400 people die from falling off ladders every year in the US, though you are much more likely to suffer from a bruise or break than dying. It just seems scary!
13. Suffocating in Bed : 2,000,000/1
Surprisingly about 300 people a year in the US die as a result of accidental suffocation and strangulation while in bed. This is even higher than the number of deaths from alcohol copmnsumption, at about 300 oper year, so apparently you are going to have a harder time drinking your self to death than being strangled by your own bed sheets!
14. Drowning In the Bath : 900,000/1
A higher percentage of people drown in their bath water than in public swimming pools, with young children and the elderly most at risk. Around 300 people drown in their baths every year in the US, although this number includes people who fall into the tub before even entering the water, so it is not strictly a drowning.
15. Killed In a Train Crash: 500,000/1
Despite a number of fatal crashes, public transport is still the safest way to travel. Buses are even safer than trains, though the number of train fatalities in the US hovers around around 30 annually.
16. Being Killed In an Accident at Work : 43,500/1
More accidents happen at work than anywhere else. Every year there are more than 25,000 serious workplace accidents, and sadly most fatal accidents could be easily avoided.
17. Killed In A Road Accident : 8,000/1
Every year 1,500 car drivers and adult passengers die in road smashes, while around 1,000 pedestrians and cyclists die in road accidents. Worldwide, over 3,000 people are killed in road crashes daily. In the US, an average of about 700 people are killed each year in off-road accidents, while the annual total ofo road accident fatalities sits at about 13,000.
18. Dying From Cancer : 5/1
The second leading cause of death in the US and one of the leading causes worldwide, we are much more likely to die from this dreaded disease than any accident that we can think of. The most common killers are lung, breast, colon and prostate cancer. Cancers, cumulatively, account for over 500,000 deaths in the US annually.
19. Dying From a Heart Attack or Stroke : 2.5/1
The leading cause of death in the US, coronary heart disease and strokes account for over 700,000 deaths every year. Watch the second hand of your clock tick by – every minute someone has died of a heart attack.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tome “Health, United States, 2002 with Chartbook on Trends in the Health of Americans“, only slightly over 4% of all deaths in the US result from anything other than natural causes (including disease), so the chances of death from accident or other external cause is really quite slim. Knowing that, you may now rest in peace.