Donât shake snack machines
Zachary Scott for Reader's Digest
Vending machines caused 37 deaths between 1978 and 1995, crushing customers who rocked and toppled the dispensers. Word to the wise: Donât risk your life for a bag of chips.
Donât mow hills â¨side to side
Most lawnmower-related deaths donât involve the whirring blades. Rather, they result from riding mowers toppling over sideways, crushing the driver. To avoid that fate, mow a hill up and down, not side to side.
Climb ladders carefully
More than 700 people die annually in falls from ladders and scaffolding. The biggest mistake? Carrying something while climbing the rungs. In a word: Donât.
Use generators â¨safely
After Hurricane Sandy, numerous homeowners whoâd lost power left portable generators running overnight near their homes, allowing odorless carbon monoxide to waft inside. The gas induces dizziness, headaches, and nausea, but âwhen people go to sleep, thereâs no chance for them to realize somethingâs wrong,â says Brett Brenner, president of Electrical Safety Foundation International. Carbon monoxide from consumer products, including portable generators, claims nearly 200 lives a year; of the Sandy-related deaths, 12 were due to carbon monoxide poisoning. Breathe easy by keeping generators more than 20 feet from your house.
Cross streams strategically
Water-related deaths outnumber all other fatalities in U.S. national parksâeven a shallow stream can pack a surprising amount of force. Once youâve been knocked off your feet, you can get dragged down by the weight of your gear, hit rocks in the water, or succumb to hypothermia.
When you encounter a stream, first toss a stick into the current; if it moves at a rate faster than a walking pace, donât cross. If the tide seems safe, enter at a straight, wide section of water, and unhitch your backpackâs waist and sternum fasteners before crossing; a wet pack can pull you under.
Stay on the dock
On May 20, 2013, Kyle McGonigle was on a dock on Kentuckyâs Rough River Lake. A dog swimming nearby yelped, and McGonigle saw that it was struggling to stay above water. The 36-year-old dived in to save the dog, but both he and the animal drowned, victims of electric-shock drowning (ESD). Cords plugged in to an outlet on the dock and a houseboat had slipped into the water and electrified it.
The number of annual deaths from ESD in the United States is unknown, but anecdotal evidence indicates that ESD is widespread. Look for outlets before diving in, and if you feel a tingle or numbness while swimming in freshwater near a boat marina, get out of the water immediately.
If you see a â¨bear, freeze
Zachary Scott for Reader's Digest
On July 6, 2011, Brian Matayoshi, 57, and his wife, Marylyn, 58, were hiking in Yellowstone National Park when they came upon a grizzly bear and fled, screaming. Brian was bitten and clawed to death; Marylyn, who had stopped and crouched behind a tree, was approached by the bear but left unharmed. The lesson? If you come face-to-face with a wild animal, resist the urge to run, which can trigger the beastâs predatory instinct.
Even better: Reduce the risk of an attack by giving bears a chance to get out of your way. âTry to stay in the open,â says Larry Aumiller, manager of â¨Alaskaâs McNeil River State Game Sanctuary. âIf you have to move through thick brush, make noise by clapping and shouting.â And always carry repellent pepper spray when hiking; it can deter a charging bear from up to 30 feet away.
Donât cut down leaning trees
Even lumberjacks worry about an effect known as a barber chair. If a leaning tree falls too fast, the trunk wonât make a clean break. Instead, the fibers of the tree will split, and the rear half of the trunk will snap backward. Says Mark Chisholm, chief executive of New Jersey Arborists, âItâs very violent, and itâs very quick.â
Donât drive ATVs â¨on paved roads
On July 14, 2013, Taylor Fails turned left in his 2004 Yamaha Rhino ATV at a paved intersection near his Las Vegasâarea home. The high-traction tire treads gripped the road, and the vehicle flipped, ejecting 20-year-old Fails and a 22-year-old passenger. Fails died at the scene; the passenger sustained minor injuries. Surprisingly, one out of three fatal ATV accidents takes place on a paved road. Thatâs because the vehicleâs âsoft, knobby tires are designed for traction on uneven ground and will behave unpredictably on pavement,â says Paul Vitrano, executive vice president of the ATV Safety Institute. His advice: âIf you must cross a paved road, go straight across in first gear.â
Avoid cliffing â¨out
Hikers scrambling up an incline may find themselves âcliffed outââstranded on a steep patch, unable to go up or down. âHikers can get into trouble when they try to take a shortcut or see an area they want to â¨explore,â says Ken Phillips, National Park Service branch chief of Search and Rescue. If you do get trapped, donât risk the ascent or descent. To avoid this precarious position, scout your route before you set out on your hike, tell someone where youâre going, and carry a radio so you can call for help.