Death by Selfie

The stories are horrific. A man fell 8,000 feet to his death while posing for a picture on a ledge at Machu Picchu in Peru. Another man was killed by a lightning strike in a national park in Wales as he used a metal selfie stick that attracted the electrical bolt. An amateur pilot lost control of the Cessna 150 he was flying over Colorado as he posed for a selfie killing both himself and his passenger upon impact. In another case, a 66-year-old tourist fell down a flight of steps at the Taj Mahal and perished. Closer to home, this February in Central Park, seven teens fell through a frozen pond while taking selfies. They were all taken to local hospitals and treated for hypothermia.

Reports of death and injury attributed to selfie-taking are on the rise. The U.S. ranks third in the world for selfie deaths, reports a study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University and the Indraprastha Institute of Information in Delhi. The study found there were 127 total deaths worldwide caused by people trying to take pictures of themselves between March 2014 and September 2016.

“Clicking selfies has become a symbol of self-expression and often people portray their adventurous side by uploading crazy selfies. This has proved to be dangerous,” the study said.

Falling from buildings, mountains, cliffs or other extreme heights are the most common type of selfie incidents. Water-related photos are the second most dangerous scenario. In one accident, 10 youths on a boat in a lake in India tried to take a selfie, causing the boat to tilt, killing seven.

Standing on train tracks or posing with firearms are also large contributors to selfie deaths. Vehicles, electricity and animals are also associated with selfie-fatalities.

Men account for three out of every four deaths, even though women take more self-portraits. Most victims were 24 years old or younger.

Preventive measures to reduce future risk are in the works. Technologies like location tagging, so users could be warned in advance about dangerous locations when they get ready to take a hazardous photo or that would temporarily disable a smartphone’s selfie function are options. Education campaigns and public policy programs are also thought to be effective ways to help people recognize dangerous behavior, like establishing no-selfie zones in areas where the threat is high.

An interesting sidenote is that the Russian government has created a “How Not to Take Selfies” pamphlet with its motto being: “Even a million ‘likes’ on social media are not worth your life and well-being.”

Selfies behind the wheel are a huge problem as well as taking your eyes off the road for just a few seconds can have disastrous results. The problem has become so severe that New York’s Department of Motor Vehicles issued a warning telling drivers to stop taking photos of themselves while driving.

If you, or someone you care about has been injured, contact Rosenberg & Gluck, personal injury attorneys, for a free, confidential legal consultation to learn more about your options.