By Chuck Mai, AAA
The book was called 100 Most Dangerous Things in Everyday Life and What You Can Do About Them (Laura Lee, Broadway Books, 2004). It sat forlornly on the sale rack at my local bookstore, totally ignored.
Because I’m a guy, danger is right up my alley. I couldn’t resist. Plus, I’ve always been a sucker for “best of” and “worst of” lists.
Among the one hundred things listed in the book were some surprises: gardening (all that bending over), garbage (especially for garbage men), cotton swabs (seems they’re not for cleaning your ears after all), and money (you don’t really want to know where those bills have been).
As you might expect, automobiles made the list – big time. The high heels section carries a warning about driving a car with elevated footwear and being unable to transfer your feet from gas pedal to brake pedal quick enough.
The chapter on rubbernecking, also known as gawking, includes a warning regarding all distractions in the car: “It is estimated that driver inattention is responsible for a quarter of all car crashes.” Actually, I’m afraid it is more like half. But slowing down to take a gander at a crash scene also causes other problems. The road’s capacity is severely restricted, traffic flow suffers, tempers rage and subsequent aggressive driving sometimes results in additional crashes.
Another of the one hundred is safety devices, which the author claims can be dangerous. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found that cars equipped with the latest crash avoidance gadgets, like lane departure warning systems that use cameras to track the vehicle’s position within the lane, and adaptive headlights that help a driver see around a curve in darkness, saw a decline in some kinds of accidents but an increase in others, perhaps because they relied too heavily on the technology to save them.
So, the safer the car, the more chances we tend to take. Wow. I’m sure there’s a law of unintended results at work here somewhere.
Bambi made the list. “At least 200 Americans are killed each year when their vehicles collide with deer. Some experts put the number at closer to 300, because often motorists swerve to avoid deer and are instead killed by collisions with trees or posts. In all, about 1.9 million people have car-vs.-deer accidents each year, and 40,000 people are injured in them.”
Think you’re safe in the bathtub? Wrong, says the book. Tubs and showers produce 150,000 serious injuries every year in this country. It’s enough to make you want to just curl up in bed and wait things out. However, that would be a mistake. Falling out of bed, being trapped between a bed and a wall, getting injured in a folding bed, and fires in bed are all big dangers.
So, where are we safest? Good question – I don’t know. I even got a paper cut reading the book.