Is Scuba Diving Safe?

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Bimini in the Bahamas

Scuba diving is enjoyed by thousands of people around the world every day and is considered a low-risk activity compared to many other outdoor and sporting activities – even such widespread activities as swimming, jogging and all-terrain vehicle riding have higher reported fatality rates than diving.

How likely are you to be injured while diving?

The most common medical issues associated with scuba diving are sunburn, seasickness and dehydration (all of which are preventable). There are actually few injuries requiring any sort of medical attention associated with diving. On average, there are only 1092 scuba-related emergency room admissions in the US each year.

Compared to other popular sporting activities, average annual ER admissions in the US are:

Diving – 1,092/year

Snowboarding – 4,438/year

Bowling – 19,802/year

Volleyball – 57,303/year

Fishing – 170,216/year

Source: NCBI

What about sharks?

Dogs, snakes, crocodiles and even hippos kill more people every year than sharks. Just in Australia there are 20 horse-related deaths each year compared to 1.7 shark-related fatalities: Horse Week, anyone? Most divers love sharks and are ambassadors for this greatly misunderstood animal.

Will I run out of air?

Your dive gear includes a display that tells you how much air you have in your cylinder — think of it like the gas gauge on your car. You’ll learn to check this gauge regularly, so it’s unlikely you’ll run out of air while scuba diving. If you do run out for some reason, your buddy has an extra mouthpiece (regulator) so you can share your buddy’s air while you swim to the surface. Some divers also choose to dive with a small backup supply of air.

Do people die scuba diving?

Unfortunately, yes. Like any activity in the natural environment, there are inherent risks in diving that can never be fully eliminated. However, with proper training and when following sound diving practices, the likelihood of a fatal accident is low – in the US there were only 50 diver fatalities reported in 2014 (the last year for which data are available). With a diver population estimated at 3 million, the diver fatality study for 2014, as published by Divers Alert Network (DAN), reported an approximate 2 per 100,000 participants fatality rate, which “appears to be relatively stable over time.” This compares favorably with other common sports:

-Jogging (13 per 100,000 participants)

– Swimming (6 per 100,000 participants)

– Horseback riding (est. 128 deaths per 100,000 participants)

Considering diving fatalities further, about 45 percent of dive fatalities are precipitated by a health-related event, and about 25 percent are associated with a cardiac event, mostly in older divers. DAN’s most recent Annual Diving Report* states, “Older, heavier divers with pre-existing heart or blood-pressure conditions are at elevated risk of dying while scuba diving, compared with younger, healthier divers. Fifty-three percent of male and 54 percent of female victims were 50 years old or more.”

* Divers Alert Network® (DAN) publishes the DAN Annual Diving Report each year. It includes data and analysis on dive incidents, injuries and fatalities for a given year.

Photo: Tod Warren

Photo: Tod Warren

 

Proper Training and Following the Rules are Key

The majority of scuba diving injuries and deaths are the result of diver error. So it’s important to get proper training and always follow the rules and procedures you learned in class.

In the PADI Open Water Diver course, you’ll learn important skills and safety concepts and practice them in a pool (or pool-like environment) before moving on to the ocean, lake or other large body of water. If you’re not sure if an open water certification is for you, ask your local PADI Dive Center or Resort about a Discover Scuba Diving experience. You’ll get a chance to try on scuba gear, breathe off a scuba tank, have some fun with friends and find out if scuba diving is for you.

PADI Instructors are held to diving’s highest standards. All PADI programs fall under strict educational standards monitored for worldwide consistency and quality. PADI randomly surveys PADI Divers to confirm their courses meet PADI’s high standards as well as the divers’ expectations. No other diver training organization works to maintain this level of professional reliability and integrity.

We hope this article has helped put your mind at ease about scuba diving. If you have additional questions, contact your local PADI Dive Center or Resort, or reach out to our community of divers on Facebook.