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Knowledge is power: Understanding our ‘Odds of Dying’ can help us make safer choices, says National Safety Council

NSC kicks off National Safety Month with its annual list of the ‘Odds of Dying’ from various causes

Itasca, IL, June 1, 2015 – The National Safety Council is kicking off National Safety Month by unveiling its annual list of Americans’ ‘Odds of Dying’ from various causes. The list of statistical averages – calculated using fatality datai for the entire U.S. populationii – details the lifetime odds of dying from various causes of death.

“Americans worry about the wrong things - for example, 865 times more people are killed in motor vehicle crashes than in commercial plane crashes,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “While ‘San Andreas’ was No. 1 at the box office, earthquakes are very rare events. Knowing the real odds of dying can empower people to make better choices and result in longer lives.”

Lifetime ‘Odds of Dying’ from common activities versus those that are commonly feared include:

  • A motor vehicle crash (1-112) vs. a commercial airplane crash (1-96,566)
  • Overdosing on opioid prescription painkillers (1-234) vs. being electrocuted (1-12,200)
  • Falling (1-144) vs. a cataclysmic storm (1-6,780)
  • Being a passenger in a car (1-470) vs. a lightning strike (1-164,968)
  • Walking down or crossing the street (1-704) vs. a wasp, bee or hornet sting (1-55,764)
  • Complications from surgical or medical care (1,532) vs. an earthquake (1-179,965)

Because the ‘Odds of Dying’ list is made up of population-wide statistical averages, it does not necessarily determine how any one particular individual will die. Making safe decisions can reduce the risks of being killed in preventable incidents. For example, wearing a seat belt, turning off cell phones and designating a sober driver can greatly reduce the risk of a fatal car crash. While avoiding prescription painkillers in favor of safer alternatives will reduce the likelihood of a fatal overdose and eliminate a pathway to a lifetime of addiction.

To learn more about the lifetime ‘Odds of Dying’, visit For National Safety Month resources and materials, visit


About the National Safety Council

Founded in 1913 and chartered by Congress, the National Safety Council,, is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to save lives by preventing injuries and deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the road through leadership, research, education and advocacy. NSC advances this mission by partnering with businesses, government agencies, elected officials and the public in areas where we can make the most impact – distracted driving, teen driving, workplace safety, prescription drug overdoses and Safe Communities.​​

i NSC estimates are based on data from the National Center for Health Statistics – Mortality data for 2011, as compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program.
ii Population and life expectancy data are from the U.S. Census Bureau

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National Safety Council Mission

The National Safety Council eliminates preventable deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the road through leadership, research, education and advocacy.

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