David Boone, missing hiker in California
I’ve been looking into missing people, danger, and death for the Danger Database project and noted this CNN headline that screams “Whitewater Deaths surge in US”, noting that recently about 50 people per year die on whitewater trips.
Until I got to the last paragraph they almost had me buying into the idea that rafting is really dangerous. I take my kids rafting and certainly realize there is risk, but I’ve been assuming it’s well worth the educational and recreations value of a raft trip down the Rogue River or other great whitewater rivers here in Oregon or other place. I started to wonder but luckily I read this : “Ten million Americans take whitewater trips each summer”.
OK, let’s do the math: 50 people out of 10,000,000 die while rafting. Assuming you take an “average” rafting trip your chances of death are 50/10,000,000 or 1/200,000. Looking at it in the common death statistic parlance this is .5 deaths per 100,000 people which is a very reasonable degree of risk I think, though I need to bone up on my death stats for other activities. Hmmm – 1987 skydiving killed 1 for every 75,000 jumps and it looks like Hang Gliding is the most dangerous activity but I need to find better stats. Lightning appears to average 90 deaths per year, handily beating out rafting in terms of simple numbers.
Of course your chances are actually much lower than 1/200,000 if you avoid rafting while drunk and taking unneccessary risks, which I understand contribute to a lot of the accidents in rafting and many other human pursuits as well.
Hmm – based on some stats I dug up it looks like an hour of rafting is about 3x more dangerous than an hour of driving (ie based on my wild and quick calculations you are 3x more likely to die rafting for an hour than driving for an hour). Still, it would appear to be a fairly/very safe activity. See comments below for details