5 Simple Ways to Save Thousands of Lives (Nobody Does)

Us no-smart-brain people tend to think that big problems require incredibly difficult solutions. But, well, of course that isn't always the case.
5 Simple Ways to Save Thousands of Lives (Nobody Does)

Us no-smart-brain people tend to think that big problems require incredibly difficult solutions. After all, if we could prevent volcanic eruptions with a massive cork, surely someone clever would have tried by now. But as it turns out, some major life-threatening problems could be solved by really small and basic solutions -- and it's usually the no-smart-brained who are preventing them from being used. For example ...

People Will Evacuate Faster If Emergency Exits Are Blocked

When it comes to running away from an emergency, emergency exits are the greatest invention since the leg. But even something as advanced as a door that only opens from one side cannot deal with the roadblocks of human cowardice, which will convince us that 50 people can squeeze through that door at the same time. So how do you make emergency exits easier to get through? By making them harder to get through, obviously.

5 Simple Ways to Save Thousands of Lives (Nobody Does)


In the event of an emergency, people will rush an exit from all directions, forming a traffic jam at the door and causing people to evacuate more slowly. Even if there are tons of exits scattered all around, we tend to all stampede toward the same one because we group together in emergencies -- also, we're pretty stupid. Fortunately, that problem can be mitigated just by blocking the emergency door. That might seem completely backwards, but it's scientifically tested and proven. If an appropriately sized obstacle is placed in front of an emergency exit, then fewer people can try to go through at once, which actually increases the rate at which people can exit. Something large like a pillar, placed slightly off-center, can keep the wave of people dripping steadily through the exit, like an IV filled with screaming idiots.

5 Simple Ways to Save Thousands of Lives (Nobody Does)
Nirajan Shiwakoti

The pillar also gives frightened people something to pee on.

It's not just humans that do this, either. Ants tend to behave in the same way, which makes them the perfect test subjects. Nirajan Shiwakoti studied how ants escape an enclosed space if there's a deadly outbreak of Raid or something, and found that placing the right obstacles in their way can nearly double the rate at which they escape. And since humans are roughly as intelligent as ants, it ends up being the perfect study. Of course, we're still a long way from human trials -- mainly because there are few universities that give out grants to researchers wanting to set concert halls on fire to see what works.

Bad Alarm Designs Kills Tons Of Hospital Patients

If you've checked into a hospital, it's safe to say that things are not going great for you. They won't be getting any better, either. Lots of different things can go wrong when you're a patient. Your IV bag could need a refill, you could get the wrong meal, and, y'know, your heart could just stop. Unfortunately for you, all of those situations sound exactly the same to a doctor, mainly because of a badly designed alarm system.

5 Simple Ways to Save Thousands of Lives (Nobody Does)

"Yeah doc, well, finding the remote before Jeopardy starts is an emergency for me."

The problem is something known as "alarm fatigue." Patients are capable of generating up to 190 alarms a day, many of which can be non-life-threatening or false. Doctors and nurses eventually start tuning the sounds out, much like how you eventually stop noticing that your apartment smells like a landfill. It doesn't matter whether a patient starts going into cardiac arrest or they're hammering the nurse button because they're angry about something Steve Harvey said on TV -- to medical professionals, it all becomes white noise. White noise that wound up killing around 200 people nationwide over a five-year period.

The solution is simple: Turn the damn alarms off. Not all of them, of course, but you don't need every single machine screeching for every little thing. Boston Medical Center ended up turning off a lot of the non-critical alarms, leading to 80,000 fewer calls in the cardiac care unit alone. Now, instead of the hospital constantly sounding like a bunch of teenagers texting each other in the same room, doctors and nurses will be on the alert for beeps that tell them a patient is liquifying in their beds.

5 Simple Ways to Save Thousands of Lives (Nobody Does)

Also, reducing the overuse of the word "stat" saved 40,000 lives annually.

So why don't we do this nationwide? The biggest obstacle is getting all the equipment creators to work together when deciding what sounds their machines are going to make. If two alarm pitches are too close together, they turn into a cacophonous garble, making it hard to determine which alarms are going off. So until people decide to spend time talking about alarm sounds rather than developing a better chemotherapy machine, hospitals will probably continue to sound like someone's pushing Brian Eno down an endless flight of stairs.

Annoying Medication Packaging Can Reduce Suicides

Opening pill bottles can be such a hassle. It's bad enough that they're stuffed with cotton and have those stupid child safety locks that are impossible to figure out if you're hungover; now you have medicine packaging where you have to punch out each pill individually from some foil. Fortunately, our collective anger has a major benefit. The more annoying it gets to pop pills, the more lives are saved.

Risperdal Tablets 4mg d I OD
Housed/Wiki Commons

Assuming we ignore all the people who get frustrated by the packs and become serial killers.

In Britain, after the government mandated that Tylenol must be sold in blister packs, the number of Tylenol-induced suicides dropped by a staggering 43 percent. That drop in suicide attempts also caused liver transplants to drop by 30 percent right away (because paracetamol overdosing can cause major liver damage), and ultimately by 61 percent -- just because taking pills now took as much effort as it takes to get to a piece of gum.

The crux of the matter lies with ease of access. Not to further the harmful stereotype that suicide is for quitters, but lives can indeed be saved by assuming that a lot of depressed people tend to give up easily. Deciding to end your life is usually an impulsive and temporary feeling, so if wanting swallow two fistfuls of painkillers requires you to pop out each one out of its wrapper for 15 minutes, a lot of people will decide it's not worth the trouble. All we have to do is make sure that committing suicide is more annoying than staying alive.

5 Simple Ways to Save Thousands of Lives (Nobody Does)
Michiel4/Wiki Commons

"Look, you can spend the next ten minutes trying to bite me open, or you could be ten seconds away from watching cat GIFs on your phone ..."

Incidentally, this is also why easy access to guns increases suicide rates. Who knew that firearms made it so easy and efficient to take a life? Maybe if we could convince the gun industry to sell bullets in blister packs as well, it would keep a lot of people from getting killed -- though we're sure the NRA would find a way to turn that into a Second Amendment issue as well.

Sorry that this entry got so heavy. To lighten up the mood, here's a puppy attempting to murder another puppy:

Rails On Trucks Will Save Lives

We don't recommend ever getting in a car crash, but if your heart's really set on it, at least don't crash into the side of a large truck. That's known as a side underride crash, and it's one of the least-pleasant ways a person can get intimate with a truck.

A side underride crash comes in a few horrific flavors. If you're on a bicycle or a motorcycle, you could get knocked off and into the path of four gigantic oncoming truck tires. If you're in a small car, you could get outright decapitated. This kind of crash kills about 200 people a year. Thankfully, there is something we can do to help prevent this: We make every truck wear a decent-sized skirt to stop showing so much of its undercarriage, like we're its conservative parents.

Air Flow Deflector

"That's better, and remember your curfew: in the garage by 10:00, not 10:05."

Those side guards are the secret weapon against horrible truck death. They prevent bicyclists or observing pedestrians from being dragged underneath the truck and under its tires, instead causing them to boink more comedically against the side. Since the United Kingdom mandated that they be placed on all trucks, the number of bicyclists killed by side underride crashes has dropped by an enormous 61 percent. The death rate from such accidents also dropped from 67 percent to 25 percent. On top of that, they also improve the fuel efficiency of the truck by 7 percent. We hear they also make amazing waffles.

5 Simple Ways to Save Thousands of Lives (Nobody Does)

An upgrade from making these guys into street pancakes.

Unfortunately, like everything that comes from the UK, the U.S. version is worse. Lawmakers are slow to create laws that would mandate side guards, probably because they're busy counting all the millions in donations from transportation companies wanting to save a buck. So instead, the change is happening on a slow city-by-city basis. The entire truck fleet of the University of Washington was recently outfitted with side guards, which makes sense when you consider how many students ride bicycles -- and are drunk. But until corporations start using their millions to save lives instead of bribing politicians, or politicians start refusing bribes, Americans will keep getting beheaded. Instead of waiting on that to happen, we recommend investing in some protective neck wear. A stylishly armored turtleneck, perhaps?

Bad Highway Sign Fonts Can Kill

Besides hating Comic Sans with a passion, most people don't really care about fonts at all. Yet there are some situations in which it's quite important to be able to read words quickly -- like when you need to learn that a tornado is about to turn your asshole inside-out, or when you're speeding across the land in an explosion-powered death mobile.

When you're traveling at a hundred feet per second on the highway, font legibility is a really big deal. In the past, the standard font for road signs was Highway Gothic (which would make a great title for a book about a hitchhiking vampire). Then, in 2004, scientists found that signs written in the Clearview font could be read at distances up to 74 feet farther away than Highway Gothic, which is 0.7 seconds more time focused on the road -- which can be the difference between a sudden stop and a more sudden, crunchier stop.

The Quick Brown g Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog. abcdelghjklmnopqrstuvwyz01234567891100/10? The Quick Brown g FOX Jumps Over The Lazy Dog. abcdefghijklm
via Wiki Commons

Now that we've put them together, it's so obvious which one will save the most lives.

But other scientists who felt the need to ruin everyone's day discovered that the sign difference may have in fact been due to improvements in design and materials instead of fonts, accusing the first scientists of being in the pocket of Big Font -- or as they're also known, the Syncopate. No longer seeing empirical proof that one was better than the other, the Highway Safety Administration did what everyone does when it comes to fonts: stick with the one they're used to. Less than a decade into Clearview's reign, the agency went back to Highway Gothic.

5 Simple Ways to Save Thousands of Lives (Nobody Does)

And the Ladies in White were free to prowl I-95 once more.

We do know now that fonts can make a difference while driving. Yet another study (who is funding these?) had drivers looking at navigation screens while driving, changing out the fonts to see which ones performed better. Sure enough, one of the typefaces distracted drivers for less time than the other -- but only for men, interestingly. Women saw no change in how long they looked at the navigation system, so it probably has something to do with the O's looking more like a boob or something. The scientists ultimately concluded that maybe we don't actually know anything about anything, but the governments of the world should fund a few hundred more studies to be safe.

If at any point we used the word "font" when we should have used "typeface," do let us know in the comments below.

Also check out 5 Absurd Solutions to Huge Problems (That Actually Worked) and 5 Creepy Mysteries With Simple Solutions No One Saw Coming.

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