Ezra Kennedy was on an afternoon hike with his cousins and friends, when he climbed up on a ledge between the tiers of Kaaterskill Falls, in the Catskills, New York. He went out onto the ledge, slipped, and fell to his death. Ezra was one of four individuals who died while visiting the park over the last few years. These four deaths all had something in common. All four individuals were taking selfies moments before their catastrophic falls.
Although taking selfies doesn’t seem that dangerous, according to a 2016 study by Carnegie Melon University, the number of “selfie-deaths” exceeded the number of deaths due to shark attacks. In the United States alone, the number of selfie related deaths has increased from 15 in 2014 to 73 in 2016.
National Parks and major landmarks have been doing more to protect visitors. Some locations have established “no-selfie” zones in areas where the risk of danger is high. Some technologies, like location tagging, that are designed to disable a phone’s selfie-function, are options that have been considered. However, there are also things that we can do to keep ourselves safe.
- Don’t ignore posted warnings. If the site says, “keep off,” don’t ignore the sign. The same applies for climbing over railings or barricades. There is a reason the area is blocked off.
- Check the rules. Resorts and vacation destinations like Walt Disney World have banned selfie tools, such as selfie sticks. Resorts and parks will have information like this posted on their websites.
- Avoid standing at the edge of steep, unsupported ledges or leaning over railings, or out of windows. The shot is not worth the risk of falling.
- Check the weather. Even if the location you have chosen is generally secure, adverse weather conditions can still make it unsafe to take a selfie.
- Alcohol, ledges, and selfies do NOT mix. Alcohol impairs judgment and can put you at risk for serious injury.
- Find another person. If you can’t snap the shot safely, scour the area for another pair of hands to hold the camera.
- Above all, use good judgment. If a location or an activity looks unsafe, it probably is, so find a different, secure way to take your picture.