Rank the danger

So which is more likely to kill you:

Hike alone for an hour at dusk in mountain lion territory;

Take an evening drive for an hour; or

Sit in front of television for an hour, eating a half-pint of ice cream?

I’m not completely certain on first and second place, but my best guess is first place goes to the ice cream, second place goes to the evening drive, and fiftieth place to hiking in mountain lion territory.

Backing up this argument requires some math. Usually, the equation, lawyer + math = ugly sight, but I think I can handle this one. According to this website, the automobile death rate in the US is 1.5 deaths per 100 million miles. If the hour-long evening drive covers 30 miles, my computer says the death risk is one in 2.2 million.

So what’s the risk of dying from mountain lions on an hour-long hike? I don’t know, but we can be sure it is far less than one in 2 million. There are 35 million people in California. If one-tenth of them hiked one hour each year, that would be 3.5 million hours annually. Six people have been killed by lions in California since 1890. This lawyer’s math says that driving is a lot more dangerous.

When people are reading Palo Alto Weekly and deciding whether to change their behavior because of lions, please don’t switch from relatively safe hiking in lion territory to relatively dangerous things like driving or packing on the calories and fat from ice cream.


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