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If there's one thing we've learned from our elders it's that death is a big shit sandwich, and we've all gotta scarf it down one day. Assuming you're not a robot who can simply transfer your consciousness into a new body when the Reaper comes a-knocking, you've probably spent a little time pondering what is going to take you out in the end.

Chances are you're worrying about the wrong sandwich. Statistics show that the bogeymen behind some of the most widespread fears and phobias are downright toothless. At least when compared to the seemingly innocent stuff you didn't know could take you out at any moment. For instance ...

What's More Dangerous than Sharks? Cows.

Jaws, Deep Blue Sea and countless Syfy originals all tell us that sharks are killing dudes left and right. They're practically the Grim Reapers of the ocean. Sure, we know that sharks don't really attack a whole lot of people, but we see one shadow swimming back and forth beneath the waves at the beach and we don't give even the smallest shit about what's realistic -- our asses are headed back to shore.

And then we call this guy.

The media love to get in on the shark action, too. Like in 2001, when a young boy was attacked by a bull shark at Langdon Beach in Florida, then another attack occurred in the Bahamas. Before you knew it, we were dealing with a full-on shark invasion, the coverage of which was later dubbed "The Summer of the Shark." Everyone was so freaked out by the attacks that legislators were actually pushed to pass legislation to deal with sharks, which they totally did.

It actually turned out later that shark attacks were down when compared with previous years. The fact is, on average, only one, single, solitary person in the United States dies from a shark attack each year, a 1 in 3,748,067 chance in your lifetime. For every year that several people are killed by sharks, there are plenty of other years in which no one is.

Lazy-ass sharks.

What You Should be Afraid of:

You want to know what blood thirsty, murderous beast kills about 20 times as many people?

Cows. Cows killed 108 people between 2003 and 2008, an average of about 22 deaths a year, or a 1 in 173,871 chance. Like we said above, sharks just don't really attack that many people. Most of the time, they don't even attack people on purpose. They just think you kinda look like their food.

Cows, on the other hand, are pretty big and hella strong. They're easily able to crush a fully grown adult, and people are around them far more than they're around sharks. A charging bull or stampede can still take you by surprise and kill you dead before you can yell "Land Shark!" In other words, you're more likely to die by cow hoof than by shark bite ... and that's not even touching mad cow disease or E. coli.

What's More Dangerous Than Terrorists? Fireworks.

If you've watched television for more than 35 seconds in the last nine years, you might be aware that there are these people called terrorists, and they're going to destroy everything you love about America and capitalism. They could strike anywhere, and at any time.

While it's true that some of this fear has abated a bit in the years since 2001, one doesn't need to look far to find people who are horrified of getting caught in the middle of a terrorist attack. After all, terrorist plots are still ongoing, as evidenced by the Times Square car bomb attempt in May 2010 or Barack Obama's recent announcement about a foiled plot involving UPS and FedEx planes.. The fear has so permeated our consciousness that NPR contributor Juan Williams thought he was just echoing everyone else's sentiments when he expressed fear over seeing traditionally dressed Muslims on airplanes.

But Williams wasn't wrong to think others might share his headscarf vigilance. America has terrorism on the brain. And what do terrorists do? They kill people, that's what. Surely, by this point we all know at least one person who was killed by a terrorist, right?

Heart disease is not a terrorist.

Actually, chances are, you don't. In the years since 9/11, the statistical chance of being killed in a terror attack in the Western world has fallen to basically zero.

What You Should be Afraid of:

Patriotic holidays.

Fireworks kill about a dozen people a year, giving you 1 in 479,992 chance of being killed by them. And about 66 percent of those occur on the Fourth of July.

Double danger!

If you think we're cheating by only counting deaths since 9/11, then how about this: In the last decade -- including the 9/11 attacks -- you've been about 10 times more likely to die from a fire you accidentally set in your home than from a terrorist attack. Somebody should make a show about a Jack Bauer type who runs around reminding people to put out the goddamned cigarette before they pass out on the sofa.

"Ashtrays people, Jesus."

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What's More Dangerous Than Elevators? Stairs.

What's the perfect torture contraption for a person who is afraid of heights, tight spaces and free-falling to his death? Besides a mechanism that stuffs that person into a coffin and catapults him off a canyon, obviously? An elevator. An elevator is the correct answer.

While they're the perfect cinematic devices for sexual tension and surprise character deaths, in reality elevators are hardly dangerous at all: Only about six people a year die in elevator accidents.

What You Should be Afraid of:

The stairs.

You're more likely to meet your death taking the stairs than riding an elevator. A little less than 2,000 people a year are killed by falling down stairs, giving you a lifetime chance of 1 in 1,818 and making stairs officially the deadliest thing in this article.

Don't run. That just provokes them.

It's a pretty simple equation, and probably the only thing Die Hard got right about building safety. Elevators are built to very high standards. There's not just one cable holding you up, there are six to eight, and each one is capable of holding up the entire listed capacity of the car, plus another 25 percent. One of those cables is also connected to a governor that determines when the car is falling too fast. If that happens, it kicks on a set of copper shoes on the sides of the elevator car that act like emergency brakes, bringing it to a halt within a few feet. There's even a big hydraulic spring at the bottom of the elevator shaft that will cushion the blow, just in case all that other shit fails.

Stairs, on the other hand, are fucking stairs. You're lucky to have a handrail, and if there's something spilled on them, you're not paying attention, you're trying to run down them too fast or you're moronically trying to slide down the banister, you're gonna fall all the way to the bottom, and it'll probably hurt pretty bad. And God help you if Bruce Willis rides you down a set of stair like you're a sled. He's going to murder you, make fun of the size of your feet and draw all over you with a marker.

So remember kids: Climbing around in elevator shafts = witty one liners.
Wrestling near stairs = 'Oh my God, what have I done to deserve this?'

What's More Dangerous than Heights? Chairs.

The fear of falling is so ingrained into human consciousness that it's become standard nightmare fare, along with clowns, tooth loss and pantless spelling bees. And it's no wonder: Our half-monkey ancestors probably broke plenty of necks falling from tree limbs back in the day. For those of us who aren't cast members of Jackass, a fear of falling is as healthy a fear as anything else on this list.

But how likely is it that falling from a high place is what actually kills you? Not very. Turns out, you have about a 1 in 5,486 chance of being killed by a fall from a high place in your lifetime, which ends up being only about 700 people a year.

Stay away from Stallone and you'll be fine.

What You Should be Afraid of:

Falling out of your chair.

Falls involving a chair, bed, or tripping over other furniture kill about 200 more people every year than falls from a significant height. Which gives you a 1 in 4,238 chance of death by ground floor slippage. Now, to be fair, those statistics are pretty much counting on one thing: that you're old and frail, because the likelihood of dying by clumsiness increases substantially the older you get. Old bones are brittle bones, and the sad truth is you could probably kill your grandma by blinking hard enough in her direction.

And then the money is all yours.

Still, over the course of your life, it makes more sense to be scared of the coffee table than the observation deck of the Willis Tower. It's far more likely to be what gets you in the end.

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What's More Dangerous Than Air Travel? Bicycles.

If you find yourself among the 40 percent of people who have some anxiety about flying or the 6.5 percent of people who are so terrified of it that they refuse to fly at all, there's a good chance that nothing we say in the next few paragraphs is going to be much comfort to you. Not when the media love playing out your worst nightmare like a fat kid loves cake.

They feed on your fear.

And certainly not when flying combines some of our biggest pet fears: heights, small spaces, luggage fees and would-be shoe bombers. So it's no wonder that most of us tense up when our planes hit a little turbulence. Which is weird, because the fact is that dying in a plane crash is incredibly unlikely; only about 1 in 5,862, or less than 700 people a year.

What You Should be Afraid of:

Crashing your bike.

Those horns won't stop that Buick.

You have a 1 in 4,147 chance of being in a fatal bicycle accident, which is about 900 people a year. While airplanes are built to strict FAA safety regulations and getting a pilot's license takes hundreds of flight hours, learning to ride a bike just takes patient parents and an allowance.

And it turns out that most fatal bike accidents are usually not the cyclist's fault at all. New York City discovered a few years back that 90 percent of fatal bicycle accidents were the motorists' fault. The only traffic hazards an airplane has to deal with are birds, other planes and overreaching superheroes.

What's More Dangerous Than Nuclear Power Plants? Every Other Kind of Power Plant.

It's hard to believe now, but nuclear energy was once a pretty promising and popular form of power. For a while in the 1950s, the design world was smitten with the atomic aesthetic, and everything kind of took on this spacey, futuristic look. Even toys got in on atomic energy fever:

Nuclear energy was literally all fun and games until a few meltdowns burst our atomic dream bubble. By the time Three Mile Island had its partial meltdown, most of the American public was terrified of powering even a toaster with something so insanely dangerous. From Three Mile on, it became so difficult to sell the public on nuclear energy that no new power plants have been built in the U.S. in 30 years.

Here's the thing, though. No one died as a result of the Three Mile Island disaster. No one even got injured or sick. The radiation released was the equivalent of one-sixth of a chest X-ray. In fact, even with nuclear power plants still in operation in the United States today, you and everyone who works in them still effectively have a 0 percent chance of dying from radiation poisoning.

While people did die at Chernobyl, and many people got sick, poor design and safety violations were so egregious and numerous that the International Nuclear Safety Advisory Group published a 148-page report in 1993 detailing every possible thing that went wrong and how it could have been easily fixed. That doesn't change the fact that everyone around the accident got massively screwed in a big way, of course, but it seems that our initial estimates of the long-term damage of a nuclear event may have been exaggerated.

You call that a meltdown?

What You Should be Afraid of:

Every other source of energy.

For example, coal kills more miners every few years than the initial blast at Chernobyl. This, of course, doesn't take into account air pollution from coal, which dwarfs those numbers yearly. But come on, that's not really surprising, is it? We know coal is bad for us -- that's why we're developing all these great green forms of energy. They're renewable and better for the environment.

Unfortunately, they're actually not necessarily safer than nuclear energy for those involved in producing them. A study found that in Europe alone, wind energy has killed more people than nuclear energy and, worldwide, hydroelectric energy has, too.

The leading cause of accidents involving wind energy farms is "blade failure," which is when a turbine blade breaks, sending shrapnel flying through the air.

With hydroelectric, of course, you get disasters and floods related to the dams.

Are we saying nuclear energy is the end-all, be-all next great power source? Is this article sponsored by a nuclear power conglomerate? Not as far as we know. We're just saying that sometimes it seems like we decide what we are going to be afraid of by drawing randomly from a hat.

To read more of Ashe's work, check out weirdshitblog.com.

And check out more things you should be scared of in 5 Bizarre Ways the Weather Can Kill You Without Warning and 5 Cosmic Events That Could Kill You Before Lunch.

And stop by Linkstorm to learn how to protect yourself from those deadly stairs.

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