The fatality rate for skydiving is around 1 death per 100,000 jumps and the average is skewed by experienced jumpers misjudging high-performance landings (swooping). Ignoring these competency-based breakdowns for a moment, performing 17 skydives in a year poses around the same average risk of fatality as driving a car 10,000 miles in a year. For BASE jumping it is closer to a roughly estimated 1 death per 500-1000 jumps so is, roughly, more than a hundred times more fatally prone to risk than skydiving.
It should be noted however that a blanket average of risk is rarely helpful as each participant in the sport will have his/her own perception of acceptable risk for a given facet of the sport, some DISCIPLINES being inherently more risky than others. For example: each year in the US around 3,500,000 skydives are completed, of which 500,000 are tandem skydives. There are around 35,000 active participants annually (not including tandem students) of whom, on average, nearly 25 per year are fatally injured. By breaking down these figures we can work out that a tandem skydive carries a fatal risk of 1/500,000 jumps accounting for an average of 4% of skydiving deaths in the USA over a 10 year period. By contrast high performance landing has accounted for an average of 34% of annual skydiving deaths over a 10 year period in the US (and far less than 500,000 high performance landings have been performed). From this breakdown, we can suggest that high performance landing carries at least eight times more fatal risk than tandem skydiving. Similar breakdowns also apply to aspects of wingsuit-BASE and BASE jumping, however a lack of regulation in BASE means that non-fatal jump data is not logged, and thus unavailable.
[Left]: BASE jumping exit point and cause of fatality infographic and statistics.
To date almost 200 BASE jumpers have been killed during the modern activity from between 1981 and 2012, of whom 50 have died whilst flying a wingsuit. Wingsuiting from a plane by contrast does contribute some added risks to regular skydiving but its injury and fatality rates are likely to be in line with average skydiving statistics [see bottom of page].
Around 80 BASE deaths have been caused by failure to deploy a parachute, 60 from body strikes, 19 from canopy strikes and 17 from line twists. Many expect this number to be higher due to the level of press coverage surrounding incidents (compared to fatal car crashes for instance). Whilst it is useful to see which exit point was linked to a fatality (71.5% cliffs), this figure would be more useful if we knew the non-fatal total of BASE jumps from each BASE platform.