The 7 Deadly Hobbies: Pastimes Your Insurer Hates

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It's often said that active hobbies promote healthy living. Some people, however, take their fun to the extreme, engaging in pastimes that put their health -- and even their lives -- at risk. Insurance companies refer to such activities as "hazardous vocations," and charge higher premiums to those who engage in them. Sometimes, they even deny such people coverage altogether.

24/7 Wall St. compiled data from government agencies and the organizations associated with these "extreme" activities to determine which had the highest rates of accident and death. We also looked at several insurance estimates to determine how much premiums would increase for those who listed these activities among their regular hobbies. (We excluded risky activities that are generally performed by professionals, rather than as hobbies, such as rodeo riding or racing sports.)

In terms of strict numbers of fatalities, these hazardous vocations are less likely to get you killed or seriously injured than riding in a car or on a bicycle. Nevertheless, insurers consider them high risk factors.

7. Scuba Diving
Deaths: 150 a year in the U.S.
Causes of Death: Equipment failure, improper ascent/descent, cardiac arrest

The Professional Association of Diving Instructors estimates that there are between 1.6 and 2.9 million active divers in the U.S. In order to dive using scuba gear, a license is required, and training can take anywhere from a few days to several months. According to Larry "Harris" Taylor, Ph.D., a biochemist and diving safety coordinator at the University of Michigan, there are about 150 deaths each year in the U.S. from scuba diving mishaps, which comes to about 1 death for every 200,000 dives. Life insurance companies usually inquire about an applicant's diving history. People who dive to 100 feet or more can pay as much as $5 more for every $1000 on their life insurance premiums. People who dive deeper than 150 feet are usually declined coverage.

6. Motorcycle Riding

Deaths: 4,462 (2009)
Causes of Death: Failure to wear helmet, intoxicated drivers, excessive speed

Even when excluding motocross and dirt-biking, motorcycling is extremely widespread in the U.S. As of 2010, the American Motorcyclist Association had over 230,000 members. Unfortunately, fatality rates for riders are high. In 2009, 4,462 people were killed while riding motorcycles. This was down from 5,290 in 2008. According to the Helmet Law Defense League, only 20 states have full helmet laws for all motorcycle riders. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1,483 lives were saved by motorcycle helmets in 2009. An additional 732 lives would have been saved if all drivers and passengers wore helmets.

5. Recreational Boating
Deaths: 736 (2009)
Causes of Deaths: Alcohol, poor weather conditions, captain error

Recreational boating is surprisingly dangerous. In 2009, the Coast Guard reported 4,730 recreational boating accidents, resulting in 736 deaths, 3,358 injuries and approximately $36 million in property damage. Drowning was a factor in 75% of boating fatalities in 2009, and most of those were likely preventable, as 84% of those victims weren't wearing life jackets.

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4. Sky Diving

Deaths: 21 (2010)
Cause of Deaths: equipment malfunction

The U.S. Parachuting Association has 33,000 members, and it estimates that people make about 3 million jumps each year. Skydiving's risks are obvious: A parachute malfunction, a mistake in midair, or a loss of consciousness are all concerns, even for veterans. In 2010, there were 21 fatal skydiving accidents -- one death for every 142,000 jumps.

3. Mountain Climbing
Deaths: 25 per year
Causes of Deaths: Equipment malfunction, weather, falling rocks or equipment

The yearly average for deaths resulting from mountain climbing in the United States is 25, according to the American Alpine Club. In 1956, there were 53 deaths -- the highest number recorded. Mountaineers can face risks such as falling, avalanches, and loose rocks or dropped equipment. For people in the Lower 48 states, a mountain climbing hobby can cause life insurance premiums to increase $3.50 for every $1,000. In other places, it can increase premiums by $5 or more per $1,000 of coverage.

2. Civilian Pilot
Deaths: 378 (2010)
Causes of Deaths: pilot error, equipment malfunction, weather

Non-commercial aviation is remarkably dangerous, with hundreds of accidents occurring each year. There were 1,248 accidents in 2009, 1,236, and in 2010, and 937 so far this year. In total, 1,112 people died in these accidents. Being a pilot has long made for for higher insurance premiums, but prices for this group shot up dramatically after 9/11.

1. Hang Gliding
Deaths: 7 (2011)
Causes of Deaths: Pilot error, equipment malfunction

Hang gliding is actually one of the most dangerous in-air sports possible. According to HSE, a U.K.-based watchdog group, the risk of death in a hang-gliding accident is 1 out of every 116,000 flights. In 2010, according to the National Transportation Safety Bureau, there were 32 accidents, resulting in seven fatalities. There have already been seven deaths this year, with another three months to go. Regular hang gliders seeking life insurance can see their premiums rise substantially, or be declined for coverage altogether.
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