I have handled injury cases in National Forests, National Parks and on State public lands. I’ve had the opportunity to see firsthand how injuries occur in the outdoors both in my practice and in experience. Data provided by the National Park Service confirms that some of the most common ways people are injured or killed in the outdoors are really pretty common causes that are not specific to the outdoors or recreating on public lands.
To start, your odds of dying in a National Park are about 1 in 2 million. That’s an extremely low figure. Men make up about 75% of the deaths that do occur. That said, here’s how the fatalities in the Parks actually breakout:
Sadly, drowning is by far the number one cause of death in the National Parks. Its also among one of the most easily preventable incidents. Careful supervision of those in the water – especially kids – and the use of life jackets would probably almost eliminate this category.
After drowning, motor vehicle collision are the next most common cause of death. According to Outside’s report, 27 percent of the motor vehicle deaths were cause by drivers distracted by scenery while 23 percent involved alcohol. Obviously, paying attention on the road and avoiding alcohol while driving could make a huge impact on this category.
Finally, falls were the next most common. This figure includes fall of trails and mountainsides, but more significantly, it includes falls from stairs and walkways.
Although I’ve seen first hand how dangerous wildlife can be, your chance of being killed by wildlife in the outdoors is almost statistically non-existent.
Interestingly, most deaths in our National Parks tend to occur in the western parks. Grand Canyon, Lake Mead and Mount Rainier tend to the lead the statistics.
I think the takeaway from these figures is that the outdoors do not necessarily pose any specific dangers that exceed what most of us experience in daily life. Basic safety precautions such as good water safety and safe driving are universal.
Here’s a link to Outside’s article: