Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Peter Benchley, Sharks and Risk

Peter Benchley, Author of Jaws, died recently (February 11). It was in all of the papers.

I was first introduced to Peter Benchley's writings one summer, bikini-clad and reading Jaws by the poolside. The novel was written in 1975 – and my copy was probably that old, but I was reading it years later. You know how paperbacks fan out over time – this copy was well-loved. I read it feet from water (not a smart move), baking in the mid-day sun. I was riveted, scared, and could not put the book down. I hated Peter Benchley for months. I could not go to the coast that summer; luckily the school year helped erase those memories.

Goodbye Mr. Benchley. You entertained and frightened millions.

Peter Benchley's obituary got me to thinking about risk. What is riskier, a snake or a shark? More specifically, which animal kills more people per year, a snake or a shark? One would think "shark" but that would be wrong. The answer is snake. There is an average of 15 fatalities from snakes, 0.4 from sharks. Remember, these are just averages. We are not talking about a shark biting 0.4 of a person per year.

But here is what I find fascinating – can you think of an animal that is 325 times more likely to kill someone in the US than a shark? Okay, I know what you are thinking – the domestic dog. Sorry. Try again. Dogs kill about 17 or 18 people per year.

The answer may surprise you – deer kill about 130 people per year. Okay, so the people kill most of those deer by running into them. Yes, Uncle Fred might run into Bambi – and Bambi, because she has not jazzercised, is so heavy that she kills Uncle Fred. Not that Bambi wanted to kill him.

So the next time you slow down to see the deer on the side of the highway, just picture a shark fin – and they are way more deadly than a shark!

25 comments:

Tai said...

Hippos knock off their fair share of people too...more dangerous than lions!

normiekins said...

i never would have guessed that...i would have said spiders.....!

Joe said...

Interesting. I read a while back that more people are killed by hogs every year than by sharks. I think I'll write a book about that.

Grant said...

I had heard the same thing about pigs myself, but I don't know where to find the stats. I wonder how pigs kill people? Are they including clogged arteries and heart attacks?

Monica said...

Being in pig country (I think Iowa is the #1 pork producing state) That reminds me of the best way to dispose of a body....toss it into a hog lot. Thye pigs will rip a body to shreds, trample it into the deep sticky mud, and eliminate any evidence vrey (relatively) quickly. Which is why you should always return a farmer wave.

Leesa said...

tai: I would never have known.

normiekins: spiders? Wow.

joe: and who would be the target audience? Daredevil farmers?

grant: You would have to find it through this site. 40 deaths per year from pigs.

monica: okay, now, you scare me.

Mike said...

Hey...that's something I knew...for a change.

and

Did you know you rarely hit the deer you see in a car?

It's usually the 2nd or the 3rd deer you hit.

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

I actually *didn't* know he died...and I'm online and read the local papers here. I have never waded too far in the water since viewing "Jaws" as a child.

Shannon said...

I never actually thought about it.. but WOW you taught me something.. I guess I should stop feeling so sorry for the little deers.. *Sigh*.. =/

Rob said...

Damn! First Peter Benchley. Then Don Knotts. Now, Dennis Weaver! Is there no God?!

I'm betting bees kill more people than snakes, dogs, or sharks. I wouldn't bet much -- but I WOULD bet! Of course, those damn hippos are tricky; ya can't turn your back on 'em for a second! My advice: Hang a big bell around their neck so they can't sneak up on ya!

mal said...

deer wrecks are not uncommon up here in "de nortland" when you see a vehicle on the side of the road with the front end smashed in and a deer by the side of the road you appreciate just how much damage hitting 150 lbs of meat at a relative speed of 65 MPH can do

Larry said...

I'm shocked!! I was sure the most dangerous animal was a sheep.

Lee said...

Ah, but their theme music is nowhere near as scary.

Edtime Stories said...

I think we have images in our heads not because of facts but because of emotion. Jaws, both the book and movie, really changed the way we see sharks. But you are right, we fear somethings that are not likely to hurt us (sharks) and embrace things that are very dangerous (speeding on a rural road in Georgia).

Miranda said...

Awww...I loved that movie. Like alot of others, it took me a while to go far into the ocean. lol

Leesa said...

mike: I have actually heard that as well.

dr. deborah: oh, crap, a psychologist is reading me. I am in trouble now.

shannon: I guess I should feel sorry for the deers as well. Many of them die too.

rob: who is Dennis Weaver.

mallory: 150-pounds of meat and that velocity. I wonder if this should be a word problem in physics.

larry: some sheep are in trouble from us as well. Ever hear of mutton?

lee: it is all in the publicist.

ed: I read something recently that said we know so much more about sharks now.

miranda: All I remember from the movie is that someone was busy taking their tennis shoes off while the shark was eating someone.

Edtime Stories said...

yes, shark week alone on the discovery channel has done so much to educate. As well as the fact that sharks don't get cancer and there might be something that can help humans. But we still fear them as if they are like the old SNL skit coming after us all the time.

Um...why? said...

Well, I have been bitten twice by rattle snakes, bump tasted by a shark, but I have never been attacked by a deer, although a few have threatened. I think it is because they understand that I, unlike most southern men, do not believe deer hunting is a sport. You see, shooting a deer from a mile away isn't a sport, it's fish in a barrel. Give the deer a rifle and teach him to shoot, then you have a sport.

I've read all the arguements about how hunting is necessary to control the deer population for the health of their species and the safety of motorists...but who is hunting the psycho, backwards, ignorant, rednecks I see so often around here? They breed quickly too, and their churches (WalMart) are spreading around the world. If we don't do something soon, they will overrun us.

Since I believe this is my first post here I will say I'm sorry if I have offended anyone. I attempt to be humorous most of the time and sometimes it comes off as offensive. Just tell me to shut it if I offend please.

David M.

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Oh please....I'm just like everybody else. And as you get to know me, you'll see that.

:)
Deb

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