I teach a composition course to high school freshmen, and, as an assignment, they write an argumentative essay addressing the following prompt: Is is possible for climbers/mountaineers to make climbing a safer activity. Almost none of them have any direct experience with climbing. Most know almost nothing about it all. I provide them with data from Accidents in North American Mountaineering, a selection from Lynn Hill's autobiography, an article about the OES tragedy on Hood, and a video where two of my climbing buddies discuss their own direct experiences.
Almost every student comes to the following conclusion: the environment that climbing occurs in is inherently dangerous and that the qualities of the choices that climbers make directly influence the rate of accidents. It is reinforced to me trimester after trimester that the math is not that hard on this one. Even an outsider, thinking carefully about the data, can come to this assessment.
One of the interesting points of data that they often marvel at is that exceeding abilities and climbing unroped are contributing causes at nearly identical rates. They also note that half of accidents are caused by falling.
When they ask me about what I do, my response is fairly simple. Accept that I engage in a dangerous sport and yet always make careful, thoughtful choices about my practices and habits.