Archive for May, 2011

Video of paper-helicopter fly-offs at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology

Stat-Ease Consultant Brooks Henderson produced this video — it’s quite impressive!

For background on the paper helicopter experiment, see this previous StatsMadeEasy post.

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Simple and cheap safety precautions against the small risk of drowning in an automobile

I always thought that if I was in a car that went into water, I’d be cool enough to roll down the windows, or wait until it submerges before opening the door (otherwise the pressure differential makes it impossible).  Based on actual experimentation, the hosts of the television show Mythbusters felt the same way, that is, until viewers pointed out that many cars turn turtle as they sink.  So in a show I watched last month they [Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage] tried this.  It was a disaster!  The Mythbuster driver [Adam] survived only by breathing from an emergency air source, and the safety diver had to cut his way out of a seat belt that wouldn’t release!  See this recap to learn what went wrong.  What they don’t show is how at first the car just floated, so it seemed like no big deal; but then when it sank, the automobile went down incredibly fast.  En route to the bottom of the lake the car spun around so much that the occupants would’ve drowned for sure.  Scary!

After this epiphany, I ordered several of these inexpensive (<$5) safety hammers (see one pictured) for cars owned by me and my offspring.

Check out this post by First Aid Monster for another video showing how fast you can go underwater when a car runs into a canal, river, pond, lake or ocean.  They suggest buying a safety hammer and provide a link to one similar to what I bought.

When I advised family and co-workers to be prepared for being trapped in a car that goes underwater, it was met by a few with great skepticism.

One individual wondered how many people die this way, figuring it being so unlikely as to not be worth any worries.  From internet research, the best I can figure is that about 10% of all drowning occur in submerged cars.  Then using statistics from this graphic by the National Safety Council putting the odds of death by drowning at 1 in 1000, I figure that dying this way in a car occurs at about a 1 in 10,000 rate – somewhat less likely than dying in a plane crash.  I’ve flown hundreds of times and never yet come across anyone refusing to buckle up as required when taking off and landing.  Why not?

Another person expressed strong doubts as to whether the hammers could break an automobile window.  I cannot yet say from first-hand experimentation, but this video provides convincing evidence, I feel.

Anyways, I’m putting the little <$5 safety hammers in all my cars. Why not?  It could come in handy some day, if not for me to escape a submerged car, then maybe for some other event that requires breaking glass – someone trapped in a car crash on land, for example.

Bear in mind that I am a Minnesotan — a state that boasts of having 10,000 lakes and where a bridge fell down into the Mississippi not that long ago.  Furthermore, I live in a town (Stillwater) with a rotten old lift bridge that may be the next to fail according to this recent report by The History Channel.


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