A lot of attention has been given this summer to whitewater rafting safety due to the recent deaths on the Ocoee River.† While even one death on a river in a year is a tragedy, it rarely†gains widespread attention.† However, when two people drown it tends to draw scrutiny, and rightfully so.
People, and parents specifically, are beginning to ask if it is safe for their kids to go rafting.† And while I pointed out in my last post that decision needs to be made on an individual basis, statistically speaking it is very safe.† So what do I mean by safe?
In 2006 CNN wrote an article stating that there were†25 whitewater rafting deaths in 12 states in the first 8 months of that year.† The inference in the article was that these deaths were a result of lax regulation.† That doesn't sound so safe, does it?
Well, what CNN failed to mention was that the majority of those deaths were not on commercial raft trips, you know, the ones that you all are asking about.† Meaning, that the majority of the whitewater rafting deaths occurred among individuals with their own rafts.† American whitewater points out that when the data for commercial rafting trips is looked at on its own, the number of deaths goes down to 10 for the whole year.
So, 10 people died in 2006 in the U.S. while on commercially guided rafting trips.† The next question that needs to be asked is 10 out of what?††† Well, American Whitewater reports that on average, there†are †6-10 whitewater rafting deaths for each 2.5 million user days on guided rafting trips.† That is, there is 1 death for every 250,000 to 400,000 "person visits" of whitewater rafting.† Furthermore, about 30% of those deaths come from heart conditions or heart attacks.
Of course, there are other factors to consider such as the classification of the river, the time of year, and the maturity of the rafter.† So, in the end, it is up to†the individual to decide.†† But as I mentioned earlier in the week, very rarely do people question if it is safe for their kids to ride carnival rides, yet in 2004 alone there were 5 deaths on amusement park rides.† Compare that with the 10 deaths on commercial whitewater rafting trips in 2006 and it puts things into perspective a little bit.
There is danger in everything, where you draw the line is an individual decision.