When Selfies Kill: A Lesson in Underestimated Risk

Often people think extreme adventurers love risk, after all how else could they do the things they do.  That may be true for some but there is risk is the most mundane things in life and what allows adventurers to succeed is understanding that risk.  The danger is when we underestimate risk.

Russian Selfie Warnings

Russian Selfie Warning Poster

Probably one of the most mundane undangerous activities we all participate in is snapping a selfie.  Even our Prime Minister snaps selfies. Yet, according to an article in Priceonomics, in the last 2 years 49 people have died from taking selfies.  That’s four times more people than have died from shark attacks and significantly more people that have died from climbing Mount Everest.  Most of these deaths are from falling off a cliff or a building; drowning and getting hit by a train are surprisingly frequent, while gunshot, grenade, plane crash, car crash and animal attack rank near the bottom.

It’s unsurprisingly easy to imagine how heights and water could claim a selfie victim, and many of us have probably witnessed an overzealous tourist clambering to a precarious perch for that facebook perfect post. However, death by some of the other modes are a bit more perplexing. Yet it happened. In Colorado a Cessna pilot snapping selfies lost control of the plane and crashed.  A Mexican man taking a selfie with his gun accidentally shot himself in the head. Two Russian teenagers posing with a grenade blew themselves up. Three Indian teenagers planning a “daredevil selfie” with a train were run over.

The overwhelming majority, nearly half, of selfie deaths occur in India; Russia claims second place and the USA third.  Canada is thankfully not on the list. The risks from selfies is so great in India that the government has created “no selfie zones”, where taking a picture of yourself is just not allowed. Russia has also tackled the problem, creating an awareness program and website on the dangers of the selfie (see image above).

Testosterone and youth seem to be key risk factors. 74% of the deceased where men, even though women are more prolific selfie posers. 84% were 23 or younger with the most dangerous age being 21, the age of 27% of the victims.

No one is going to argue that taking a selfie is more dangerous than rowing across an ocean or climbing Mt. Everest, but anyone who takes on those challenges knows they need to be prepared.  So next time you pull out your iPhone to capture the moment, remember that a couple dozen people will die this year doing the exact same thing

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1 Comments to “When Selfies Kill: A Lesson in Underestimated Risk”

  1. Terence O Brien says:

    I was about to take a picture of me cutting out the last panel of my expedition rowboat. Maybe I should put the saw down first.

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