What Are the Odds?

by Mark Goldwich

If one thing is for certain, it is that there are no guarantees in life. Or, as other people have said, the only sure things in life are death and taxes. I never did agree with the taxes part of that statement, since you can choose jail (or death) over paying taxes.

Anyway, now that I started thinking about death, a concept I’m not at all fond of, I wanted to look at the ways people die, and how they can avoid that, or at least put it off for a while. So I got on the National Safety Council website (www.nsc.org) and found an article titled “What are the odds of dying from…”

To me, this is good information to have for a few reasons. One, if you know the most likely ways you are going to die, you can then learn some steps to help you beat the odds. Also, if you know the least likely ways you are going to die, you can ease your mind a bit when it comes to worrying about dying in a particularly nasty, but highly unlikely way.

For example, the NSC showed Heart Disease and Cancer led the way towards death with 1 in 7 odds. So, if you do just a little research, you can take some pretty easy steps to greatly reduce your odds. Stop (or never start) smoking, exercise regularly, maintain a healthy diet and weight, and see your doctor.

Image courtesy of wikipedia.org
On the other end of the spectrum, dying from a lightning strike came in last with the odds of 1 in 164,968. Now, I was not thinking of this the other day when I was playing catch in the front yard with my son, under a tree, with lightning cracking nearby. If I did, even though the odds are not high, I would have gone into the house even sooner than I did. Still, there are many other ways to die, but I'm not going to list all the odds. What I will do is give you a few, with some thoughts on how you can reduce your risk. 

Did you know the odds of dying in a motor vehicle crash are 1 in 112? That’s worse than I thought it would be, making me glad I always wear a seatbelt.  Other than that, I could really stand to be more careful when I drive (no texting, no speeding, no aggressive lane changes). Besides improving my life span, good driving habits can save me money on insurance premiums.

Does knowing the odds of death by firearms discharge are 1 in 6,699 make you feel better? This one is tricky, because many of these deaths are caused by the person’s own gun, which means not owning a gun would better your odds. Then again, as a gun owner, I would recommend you take a firearm safety course, use a trigger lock, and take extra care whenever handling or cleaning a gun. After all, the answer to avoid dying in a car accident would be to never drive or ride in a car. This notion highlights the difference between “possible” and “realistic”.

How about choking to death from eating food? The odds of this are listed as 1 in 3,375. As someone that has used the Heimlich Maneuver twice on my own daughter before her 7th birthday, may I suggest being careful to cut food into pieces too small to choke on, not putting too much food in your mouth at one time, and chewing food well before swallowing. And parents, please particularly watch out for hard candies with your kids. My daughter’s first choking “incident” was on a Life Saver – how ironic!

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Most people have a fear of dying in a plane crash, much more so than dying in a car crash, but when you consider the odds of dying in a car vs. a plane are 1 in 112 vs. 1 in 8,015, I’ll take that plane ride any day of the week. I recall someone asking me why I would jump out of a perfectly good airplane (back in the day when I would skydive for fun on weekends). Even then, without knowing the odds, I would always say, “there is no such thing as a perfectly good airplane” meaning, all planes seem perfectly good, right up to the time they crash. The fact is, skydivers are much more likely to die on the car ride to or from their jump site, or when the plane they are to jump from crashes (this takes out the whole group of jumpers, not just the one that might die during the jump).


Insurance is a system by which financial risk is avoided or reduced by transferring the cost of that risk to another. The event may still happen, but your financial risk is reduced or eliminated. Similarly, taking extra precautions reduces your risk of accidents, and in the case of accidents, it is not just money you are trying to save, it is your health, or even your life. 

Mark Goldwich is president of Gold Star Adjusters, a group of public insurance adjusters dedicated to helping citizens get the maximum settlement for any insurance claim.  

2 comments:

  1. Some pretty cool statistic and a very interesting read ; D

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  2. Having spent the bulk of my professional life in the gaming industry, I can tell you that the you live or die by the math of the game. This also applies in the game of life.

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