Believe it or not, plane crashes, gunshots, snake bites and even the plague are much less deadly than you think.
In all the Titanic 100th anniversary press I spotted a statistic that approximately one out of three people actually survived the wreck. And while that does mean about 1,500 people died… it’s still a pretty strong survival rate for one of the most famous disasters ever. I guess there were plenty of people who DID decide to share their giant floating doors that had more than enough room for two.
That got me looking into survival rates… and that spawned this list.
Here are 11 things we think generally think of as fatal that actually have surprisingly high odds of survival.
1 | Plane crash – 96% chance of survival
Between 1983 and 2000, there were 53,487 people involved in plane crashes in the U.S. And 51,207 of 53,487 survived… for a 95.74 percent survival rate. Meaning that a plane crash has a better survival rate than encounters with the black smoke monster or getting shot by Michael in his quest to find Walt. And on the subject of gunshot deaths… (Source)
2 | Gunshot – 80-95% chance of survival
If you take a shot to the head or the heart, you’re basically done (less than a nine percent chance of survival). But according to Dr. Vincent J.M. DiMaio, a former medical examiner who wrote a book on gunshot wounds, there’s a reason horror movie bad guys… and 50 Cent… can be shot repeatedly and live.
He found that 80 percent of the targets on the body are not fatal places to be shot. And if you’re shot and you get to a hospital with your heart still beating, there’s a 95 percent chance of survival. (Source)
3 | Train crash – 99.9999999999% chance of survival… if you sit in the back
Other than the extremely rare event that a train is rear-ended by another train, all crashes happen in the front of trains, not the back. Your odds of dying in a train crash are only about one billion to one for every mile traveled… if you’re in the back, where there’s less of a chance of impact or derailment, the odds drop close to zero. So when you get on a train, sit as far back as possible. Call it a tribute to Rosa Parks, OutKast or the movie Unbreakable, depending on personal preference. (Source)
4 | Venomous spider bite – 99% chance of survival
Spiders like black widows, brown widows and Australian redbacks inject a neurotoxin that causes a condition called latrodectism. The death rate from latrodectism is less than one percent. Let this be another lesson why you should trap spiders in a glass and set them free instead of squashing them. They don’t really want to kill you with their venom, it’s good for you karma AND they might help you keep a pig alive one day. (Source)
5 | Drinking dangerously high amounts of alcohol – 95% chance of survival
Approximately 79,000 deaths in the U.S. are attributed to alcohol (about three in five are from chronic conditions, two in five are from alcohol poisoning or drunk driving). About 1.6 million people are hospitalized due because of something alcohol-related every year. So, roughly, 95 percent of them survive.
And on some rare occasions, those alcohol hospitalizations even save lives. In 2001, the CDC begrudgingly wrote, “11 lives were saved because of the potential benefits of excessive alcohol use, all of which were attributable to a reduced risk of death from cholelithiasis [gall bladder disease].” Next time I take 17 shots of vodka I have to remember to tell everyone I’m doing it just in case I have cholelithiasis. I’m sure that will come out nice and lucid. (Source)
6 | Plague – 99.5% chance of survival
This doesn’t refer to The Plague, but any plague. Statistically, every 30-year generation suffers a plague that kills about 20 million people (AIDS is the most recent). With 20 million deaths, that gives you approximately 200 to 1 odds of dying from your generation’s plague… or a 99.5 percent chance of survival. Still, please do not go get AIDS. (Source)
7 | Heart attack – 60-75% chance of survival
About 60 percent of women and 75 percent of men survive a heart attack. (It’s generally worse for women because they’re less likely to think they’re having a heart attack so they don’t get treatment as quickly.) About 90 percent of people who make it to the hospital alive after having a heart attack survive.
Related: The American Heart Association found that less than one percent of people died from heart attacks during sex. But of the people who did, three-quarters of them were cheating on their wives at the time. It’s some combination of the riskiness, elevated stress levels, trying too hard, drinking beforehand, and delayed treatment. See, The Distinguished Gentleman DID have at least one feasible element. (Source)
8 | Venomous snake bite – 99.9% chance of survival
Around 7,500 Americans are bitten by venomous snakes every year. Between four and eight die. About half of the bites from venomous snakes don’t even release any venom. I’m really glad I wrote the grammar piece on venom versus poison last year or this paragraph would’ve been much sloppier. (Source)
9 | Possession by Satan – 99.997% chance of survival
There are approximately 37,500 exorcisms performed annually. At most, one person who’s possessed dies. It’s generally from malnutrition or dehydration (because the Devil tells them to stop eating or drinking, naturally)… or during the exorcism itself because the exorcist beats them to death. (Source)
10 | Suicide – 96% chance of survival
About 750,000 Americans attempt suicide every year and about 30,000 actually die. If they’d known suicide only had a four percent success rate it totally would’ve changed the guys’ plan in Dead Man on Campus (which is on my list of “Movies That No One Likes But Me” along with White Chicks and Ladies Man). (Source)
11 | Lightning – 90% chance of survival
Approximately 400 Americans are struck by lightning every year, with about 40 deaths. I have no respect for lightning anymore, because ten percent death rates are for cowards. (Source)
[Edited at 2:44: A few people have emailed me that Cracked.com did a similar list to this. I checked it out and found that five of the 11 items on my list are similar to items on their list, including three that use the same source. I had no idea they’d done the same list, much like I’ve assumed in the past they had no plagiaristic intent in cases where one of their lists is thematically similar to one of mine. I’ve worked with Cracked in the past and we’ve linked back and forth, so let’s chalk this up to great — or aspiring to be great — minds thinking alike.]