Hippos Are More Dangerous Than Flying

by Adrienne Vogt

In the aftermath of a major airliner crash (or, in the case of Malaysia Airlines Flight 307, a complete mystery) people are understandably a bit on edge about the idea of boarding an airplane. Theories surrounding MH307 — from pilot suicide, to mechanical failure, to alien abduction and even a new Bermuda Triangle — do nothing but further fuel the uncertainty. The Boeing-777 carrying 239 passengers disappeared from radar on March 8, and the search was expanded to the Indian Ocean Thursday due to evidence that it may have continued flying in the opposite direction of its intended path.

But usually, anxiety over flying is rather unfounded. In fact, experts insist that airplane travel is actually the safest way to travel. A professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology crunched the numbers and figured out that the risk of death on commercial flights is only one in 45 million flights. That means you'd have to fly every day for 123,000 years before encountering a likelihood of a possible fatal incident. The number of airplane deaths varies widely year to year, so it's difficult to pinpoint a precise number of average annual fatalities, but the time between accidents has been unmatched in recent years.

If you're anxious about flying, just remember — these other things are far more likely to put you at risk. Feel better yet?


Let's begin with the obvious. Car crashes are much, much more common than airplane crashes. Figures from the National Safety Council put the odds of dying from a car crash at 1 in 415. Likewise, the odds of dying in "air and space transport activity" are just 1 in 7,229. People are 22 times more likely to be killed in a car than in the sky.

The numbers of car-crash fatalities have steadily decreased in the past decade, due to increased technology and vehicle-safety measures. (However, the death rates of gun-related fatalities are quickly catching up to the falling numbers for vehicle fatalities.)


Watch your step —seriously! The rate for pedestrian deaths is 1 in 749, according to the NSC. You might want to put down your cellphone for a hot second too, because research indicates that walking and texting leads to more emergency room visits than distracted driving.

Dietrich Jehle, professor of emergency medicine at the University of Buffalo, says that 15 percent of the 41,000 pedestrian cases treated yearly in U.S. emergency rooms involve cellphones. "This is the first time there have been more pedestrian injuries related to cellphone use than there have been related to driving," he claims.

Try downloading an app like Type n Walk, which provides a transparent screen for your texts while on the go.

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Chew your food! The NSC calculates that the death rate for choking is 1 in 3,842. Kids are especially at risk, as hospitals see about 34 children per day who've choked on food. That number is actually most likely to be a vast underestimation, because most kids who choke don't go straight to the emergency room with life-threatening problems. Candy, hot dogs, nuts, and meat bones are the biggest culprits.

Brush up on your Heimlich maneuver, just in case.

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Food Allergies

Check the ingredients. More than 200,000 emergency-room visits per year are because of allergic reactions to foods like peanuts, fish, milk, and soy. Some say that the actual number of allergy-related deaths is small, while others contend that 150-200 people per year die after going into anaphylaxis.


Are you in a large body of water? Can you swim? Do you have a life vest or a lookout buddy? If not, get one, stat. As sunny summer approaches, I'm here to remind you about the sobering fact that the drowning death rate is 1 in 1,112.

Each year, more than 4,000 people die each year from drowning — the majority of them young children, sadly. Men are nearly four times more likely to die from drowning than women, because "they are more likely to engage in reckless behavior," according to MedHelp.

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Don't pop too many of those Tylenols. Acetaminophen overdose sends about 78,000 Americans to the emergency room annually. Unfortunately, those numbers reflect intentional overdoses, and more people use Tylenol than any other over-the-counter drug. Taking too much of the pain reliever causes liver damage and is especially dangerous when paired with alcohol, obviously. Nonetheless, an investigation by ProPublica found that more than 1,500 people in the U.S. died from accidental acetaminophen overdoses from 2001-2010.

Riding A Bike

All you pedal-pushers out there need to watch out. The NSC says that "pedalcyclists" have a nearly 1 in 5,000 chance of being killed on their bikes. If you live or work in New York City, it's easy to see how many things (people, food carts, cars, buses, garbage, Elmo characters, etc.) can be strewn haphazardly into a biker's path.

About 48,000 cyclists were injured in 2011 and 677 were killed in the U.S. — a nearly nine percent increase from the previous year. Studies also show that cyclists ingest tons of dangerous pollutants on their rides. Oh, the irony.

Cyclists also need to watch out as I'm texting while crossing the street, jeez.

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Yes, hippos. Hippos kill nearly 3,000 people each year, according to the African Wildlife Foundation. So watch out next time you are exploring the wilds of Africa.

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Welp, I don't know about you, but I'm going to spend the rest of the day curled up in my room avoiding all contact with the outside world. And then I might hop on a plane.