7 Deadly Things You Won't Believe Most People Survive
We have previously pointed out that fewer people die in shark attacks than are killed by cows. But sharks are hardly the only danger the world loves to overhype.
In fact, sometimes the things that seem deadliest aren't so much deadly as they are inconvenient. For example ...
You Have a 96 Percent Chance of Surviving a Plane Crash
You constantly hear about how safe air travel is, how rarely planes crash and how you're many times more likely to die in a car accident. All of that is true. But the reason we still get a bit nervous when strapping in for a flight is because we know that if the plane does go down, we are screwed.
A car accident you might walk away from. But you're not walking away from a flimsy aluminum tube plummeting 30,000 feet and smashing into the ground. Right?
And if you survive the crash, you still have those polar bears to contend with.
You probably will. Out of the collective 53,487 people involved in plane crashes in the U.S. from 1983 to 2000, 51,207 survived. That's nearly a 96 percent survival rate.
If you're wondering how that's possible, just look at something like Aloha Airlines Flight 243. That plane had half of its fuselage ripped off in midair after an explosive decompression:
The sky filled with John Grisham novels and half-empty cans of cranapple juice.
But, as is often the case, the pilot successfully got it onto the ground in a way that did not cause it to erupt in a giant fireball. As a result, out of 94 people, only one person died on that flight (the one person who wasn't strapped to her seat when the plane fell apart -- hey, that's why they have those seat belts!).
Here's a flight from 2001 where the plane lost both engines at 33,000 feet and was still 135 miles from the airport. Oh, and they also lost all hydraulic power, so they couldn't operate the flaps or brakes. The pilot muscled the dead aircraft into a series of gentle 360-degree turns to reduce speed and altitude until the aircraft glided to the airport, where the pilot could carefully set it down on the runway. No one was killed.
But every pair of pants on the flight was ruined forever.
See, this is why you still need a pilot at the wheel instead of just letting autopilot take care of the whole trip, or letting passengers take turns behind the stick. They're there in case something goes wrong, and they're pretty freaking good at their jobs.
Also good at their jobs? The engineers who built these things. A plane can absorb a lot of shit going wrong before it just submits to plummeting sadly to earth. It's full of backups, redundancies and safety measures meant to keep it aloft even if multiple systems fail.
So, what is the secret to surviving an airplane crash? Remarkably, doing exactly as you are told. Yes, those in-flight demonstrations of how to use a seat belt are ridiculous, but if you're out of fuel and about to do an emergency landing in the ocean, that's going to be the difference between floating safely away on your seat cushion versus trying to jump out of the plane because you saw Arnold Schwarzenegger do it in Commando.
"Fuck you, sky, I am a GOD!"
Getting Shot Is Only Fatal 5 Percent of the Time (If You Get to a Doctor)
In action movies, the rule for bullet wounds is fairly consistent:
Get shot in the arm or leg? It's basically a mosquito bite.
Get shot anywhere in the body? You're dead before you hit the ground.
This man had a gun thrown at him.
Obviously the first one only happens in movies because nobody pays to watch Bruce Willis sitting in an emergency room for an hour waiting for them to tend to his wounded shoulder. But then you have the second part -- if you shoot a bad guy in the chest or really anywhere in the torso, he's down for the count.
Indiana Jones whips out his gun and shoots that swordsman somewhere in the middle of the body and just turns around and walks away, knowing the guy is dead. It's been the same with tens of thousands of movie shootouts since the days of silent-film Westerns -- one shot, one kill. Here's a whole mess of dudes with no tolerance for bullets whatsoever:
In real life, unless you're one of those dudes getting shot in the head or perfectly in the heart, you're probably going to make it if you can get medical attention. According to one doctor who has a little experience with these things, as long as your heart is still beating once they wheel you into the hospital, there is a 95 percent chance of survival.
Ninety-five percent! We'd think the fatality rate would be higher from getting shot with a damned paintball gun.
Don't worry, they'll both be rebuilt as robot cops, and then the Blue Team will pay.
It turns out that your body is actually pretty damned resilient, and just as well engineered as those planes we mentioned in the previous entry. You're built to keep going despite taking a lot of damage. According to former military surgeon Dr. Martin L. Fackler, "Shots to roughly 80 percent of targets on the body would not be fatal blows."
Now, obviously, if you get shot and left in the desert to die, you've got a problem -- and each additional bullet hole significantly raises your chances of blood loss, shock or, well, death by bullet hole. But it's possible to rack up 20 bullet wounds and live to tell the tale. Just ask North Carolina man Kenny Vaughan, who was shot about 20 times with a rifle that was only 5 feet away.
Pictured: An entire episode of The X-Files.
Oh, and then there is Angel Alvarez, who was shot more than 20 times in 2010 and survived. Or Howard Morgan, who survived more than two dozen gunshot wounds after opening fire on police like an idiot. Or, lastly, soldiers like Roy Benavidez, who somehow survived 37 separate "bayonet, bullet and shrapnel wounds" over the course of six hours. That's the human body for you. Well, if you consider such a feat human.
There's a reason Reagan looks nervous. These soldiers were never supposed to be known.
So if you need to kill a bad guy, really you should leave nothing to chance and just stab him right in the heart. The only problem there is ...
You Have a 1 in 3 Chance of Surviving Getting Stabbed in the Heart
If getting stabbed through the ticker is bad enough to kill Dracula, surely no human can survive having their heart turned into shish kabob. Right?
Your odds of surviving a stab wound directly to the heart are roughly 1 in 3.
It's why the first person you convert in your new coven is a surgeon.
Yes, we realize that's not as favorable as the "getting shot" stat above, but come on. If Arnold Schwarzenegger had gotten stabbed in the heart in one of the movies where he plays a human and then came back like nothing had happened, you'd have been screaming bullshit. If in real life you stabbed a dude right in his heart and he just got back up, you wouldn't be saying, "Damn, that's a badass!" No, it'd be more like, "AAHHH! ZOMBIE! SHOOT HIM IN THE HEAD!"
Quick, think of something before he dies -- "You've been businessed." Goddamnit.
Now, don't get us wrong; getting stabbed through the heart sucks, and if it ever happens to you, you should definitely stop what you're doing and go straight to a doctor. But according to a seven-year study on penetrating cardiac injuries involving more than 20,000 consecutive trauma patients, the survival rate for patients who were stabbed in the heart was 32.6 percent -- slightly better than the 31.9 percent for all passengers and crew on the Titanic.
In a twist of ironic justice, if you do this on any ship, the crew will stab you in the heart.
So, for those of you keeping score, if a heart-stab victim and a passenger on the Titanic were racing each other toward a finish line called "survival," the guy with the dagger in his heart would probably be the winner. Unless the Titanic passenger was one of the priority lifeboat passengers, like if it was some rich person's baby. But then, how would he race? You need to think these things through, people.
Venomous Snakes Kill Fewer People Than Insects
First of all, we're going to limit this specifically to venomous snakes that bite people. You already probably know that most snakes aren't in that category, and are content to hang out in your yard and eat toads and mice. But those stats you hear about how snakes won't kill you -- that's not referring to the bad snakes, right? No matter what anyone says about snakes in general, if you run into a damned rattlesnake or cobra, it's still going to murder your ass, isn't it?
Dude, just let 'em have the damn baskets.
Out of the 7,000 to 8,000 people who receive venomous snakebites in the U.S. each year, guess how many actually die as a result?
It's five. Freaking five.
"He's not pissed off enough. Flute me up some Bizkit."
For comparison, that's fewer than the total number of people killed by non-venomous insects each year.
Hell, there's a good chance that even if you are bitten, you won't even get any snake venom in your body -- these are called "dry bites" and constitute anywhere from 25 percent to more than 50 percent of bites from venomous snakes. This means that women are more likely to fake an orgasm than deadly snakes are willing to go all the way when they bite, which, now that we think about it, seems like a major cop-out on both fronts.
That's why you can have stories like Sant Ram of India, who supposedly was bitten 60 times in three years, because apparently snakes think he tastes great. He was still alive the last time anyone heard.
"Well, there's your problem. Found this little guy hanging out in your colon."
More Than Half of the Passengers Survived the Hindenburg
We realize this one probably doesn't apply directly to your life unless you intend to board a zeppelin built exactly like the Hindenburg at some point in the future (hey, who can say where life will take you?), but it's still a great example of how really hard it is to kill a human being.
After all, this is the freaking Hindenburg -- its very name is synonymous with an enormous ball of fire so big that it made a reporter shit his pants on the air. It wasn't the worst accident in history -- you can only fit so many people on board a blimp -- but it was certainly the most spectacular one ever captured on film.
The aircraft had its stunning explosion over Lakehurst, New Jersey, on May 6, 1937, and it was probably a good thing for the Nazis that the Zeppelin Company went against pressure from Joseph Goebbels to name the airship after Hitler. The accident resulted in 36 fatalities and a memorial not nearly as awkward as it could have been.
In an alternate history, the marker is known as the Adolf Hitler Memorial Plaque.
It's no wonder the video of this thing going up in flames became one of the most famous newsreels of all time -- the footage looked and sounded like an old-timey star destroyer going down. So for passengers on this doomed aircraft, they had to deal with not only being in the middle of a supernova of burning hydrogen gas, but also plummeting to the ground a second later.
Yet, incredibly, the odds of surviving the enormous fireball were actually pretty good. Out of the 97 passengers and crew aboard the floating airship, only 35 were killed when it exploded.
What a 65 percent survival rate looks like.
The chief reason your chances of having survived the Hindenburg were "more than likely" instead of "zero" was because the mechanics of the disaster happened to play out like a quick-time event similar to something out of Resident Evil 4. All the passengers and cabins were on the underside of the airship, so once it went aflame and lost its lift, surviving just boiled down to timing. In the following video, you can actually see the passengers and crew waiting until the dying zeppelin slowly drifted close enough to the ground, pressing "X" to "jump" and then doing what any sane person would do: running like hell.
Also, you may have noticed that's 35 passengers and crew killed in a disaster involving 36 fatalities. That extra body was a particularly unlucky soul named Allen Hagaman, whose cause of death was having the fucking Hindenburg fall on top of him.
You Have a 99 Percent Chance of Surviving a Black Widow Bite
The female Latrodectus, perhaps better known by its stripper name, "black widow," just might be the most feared spider in North America. It's a black latex-wearing fetish artist with a universally recognizable tramp stamp and a reputation for dirty deeds.
All those glossy books in elementary school didn't lie to you: A black widow can kill a human. As such, if a black widow ever bites you, it's a pretty safe bet that you'll be the next one to bite it, so to speak, as well. Right?
But not before you spank it to death with your shoe, obviously.
Not exactly. Even if a black widow manages to pump you full of her poison, her venom has a natural death rate of a whopping "well under 1 percent." That's even less than the danger posed by the anti-venom your hospital would probably not treat you with.
"My professional advice? Stop getting bitten by goddamn spiders."
In short, if a black widow ever bites you, consider it a divorce and not a death sentence. Yes, it's probably going to hit you where it hurts -- this poor kid described it as "excruciating" -- but hey, if you had to choose between a black widow bite and an STD, which would you pick?
Getting Struck by Lightning Only Kills 10 Percent of Victims
Getting struck by lightning is a lot like winning the lottery, except instead of money, you're winning a zap from God's finger gun. Either way, you're going to wind up looking like a charcoal briquette, right?
After all, we're talking about a blast of energy to the tune of 30,000 amps that heats the air around it up to 36,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Yet ... you hear freaky stories of people surviving lightning. Here is a video of an old man getting struck by lightning while walking across a street and shaking it off because, screw it, he still had a street to walk across. But that's why stories like that get famous -- because they're rare. Right?
Not really. According to the mad scientists at the National Weather Service, an estimated 400 people got struck by lightning in the U.S. between 2001 and 2010. Out of those 400 unlucky lightning rods, only 40 died as a result. That's a 90 percent chance of survival right on the money, granted with a severe risk of "chronic pain, hypersensitivity, memory lapses and impaired thinking and concentration skills."
"Can you hear the light, too?"
So no, you're not going to enjoy a lightning strike too much, and it might fairly well scramble your brain. But you'll have a hell of a story to tell afterward.
Jacopo is a history nerd who was recently interviewed by Ripley's Believe It or Not! about the great Andrew Jackson Cheese Party of 1837. He also has a new book coming out called The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy and he is on Twitter.
For situations you won't make it through, check out 6 Deadly Injuries You Think You'd Survive (Thanks to Movies). Or discover the 5 Animals That Are Terrifyingly Hard to Kill.
And stop by LinkSTORM to learn how to stop bullets with your mind. (We don't recommend trying this at all, ever.)
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