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!
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