FREDERICKSBURG, Va., Jan. 29, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Parachute Association reports that the breathtaking sport of skydiving saw record growth and improved safety in 2012, with even more activity expected in 2013. (Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20130129/LA49868) Last year, more than a half million people took the leap for the first time at more than 200 USPA-affiliated skydiving schools and centers across the country. Whether to cross an item off their bucket lists or to discover a new hobby and passion, these first-timers took the life-changing leap and experienced the thrill of a lifetime. USPA also reports an upsurge in experienced skydivers of all ages. First-timers and licensed skydivers together made more than 3.1 million jumps in 2012. At year's end, USPA boasted a record-high membership of 34,800 – the highest membership total in the association's 67-year history – including more than 6,700 new members. Even with skydiving clearly on the rise, accident numbers continue to remain comparatively low. In 2012, 19 people died in the U.S. while skydiving, or 0.006 fatalities per 1,000 jumps – nearly the lowest rate in the sport's history! Tandem skydiving has an even better safety record, with less than 0.003 student fatalities per 1,000 tandem jumps over the past decade. According to the National Safety Council, a person is much more likely to be killed getting struck by lightning or stung by a bee. Skydiving continues to improve its safety record due in large part to safer equipment and better training. USPA continues to work toward making the sport safer by developing additional training programs and conducting its annual Safety Day – scheduled for March 9 this year—where drop zones across the country hold safety seminars and refresher training. "We're constantly striving to reduce the risk and increase the level of safety," said USPA Executive Director Ed Scott. "The sport's record growth reflects this improved safety, as well as the indescribable life-altering experience of jumping out of a plane." Skydive Like a ProFor sheer excitement and high-speed fun, no sport comes close to skydiving. This high-flying adrenaline sport is not as extreme or intimidating as it may seem. Just about anyone 18 years of age or older can take to the skies after some comprehensive safety instruction.