We have all seen the statistics for the most common killers across the country – heart disease (curse you, delicious pork tenderloin sandwiches!), cancer (curse you, biology!), upper respiratory disease (curse you…all the things that cause upper respiratory disease!) – and although these are also the top causes of death in Indiana, there are a few other dangers Hoosiers should look out for.
We put together this handy list of 13 things (in no particular order) to be mindful of. Some make us giggle (and then feel bad about it) and others strike fear deep within us, but all of them really CAN kill you…we just want to keep our fellow Hoosiers safe!
1. Kissing Bugs
It may sound silly, but these little guys really are quite dangerous. Just a few months ago, the Center for Disease Control announced that these deadly insects have now spread across half of the country.
Why are they called "Kissing Bugs"? Do you really want to know? The bugs, like ticks, feed on the blood of both animals and humans… and for some reason they really like to bite around our lips. (Yuck.)
The bugs alone are pretty gross, but the real danger lies in the parasite they can carry, which can lead to Chagas disease if left untreated. Early symptoms can look a lot like any other mild sickness – fever, fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting – but Chagas disease also cause intestinal damage and heart failure, and the infection can lie dormant for years.
VIDEO The bad news? Kissing Bugs are hard to kill. They like to live in mattresses (and pet beds) and only come out at night, much like bed bugs. Unfortunately, bug sprays don’t work. The CDC recommends capturing any bugs you find and drowning them in rubbing alcohol or freezing them in water.
Yeah, yeah, this one seems obvious, but snowstorms need to be taken more seriously. If you check out the lists of Indiana’s deadliest natural disasters, blizzards are one of the most common ways the world is trying to kill us.
The bad news: there’s not a whole lot you can do to change the weather, and the frequency and severity of deadly blizzards is on the rise.
The good news: you can take precautions to NOT DIE by keeping a small stash of emergency food, staying indoors to prevent overexposure (and DO NOT try to shovel the snow faster than it can fall – overexertion and heart attacks are quite common in the winter). Most importantly, DON’T DRIVE. Which brings us to our next killer…
3. Icy Roads
We don’t care how good of a snow-driver you think you are; please, for the sake of the rest of us, stay off the roads. Even if you can gracefully drift your car through a 360° spin or know not to overcorrect and wind up in a ditch, that doesn’t mean everyone else can too.
Already this year, we’ve seen a 40-car pileup on I-74 that completely shut down the highway for hours. All it takes is one little slide and then everyone else behind you is pretty much doomed. Whiteouts are unpredictable and overconfidence breeds high speeds and poor judgment of distances. St. Joseph Valley Parkway (US-20) is particularly bad because it’s a bridge – elevated roads have no ground beneath them to trap heat, so they freeze faster.
We might totally sound like your nagging mother right now, but you listen here young man and/or lady: you better drive like your grandmother (the one who can’t see over the steering wheel, not the one with the lead-foot and a need for speed). Don’t you "but Mooooooom" us, we don’t care how fast your friends are driving, and we know what’s best for you on this one.
4. Semi Trucks
While we’re on the topic of driving, here’s one more thing to worry about: commercial truck driver. We mean no offense to any of you big rig drivers out there – your job is both massively important and way more difficult than people give you credit for – but those big trucks are hard to control, and we’re just reporting the news on this one.
In an interview with the Indiana State Police about the high number of road accidents that included commercial vehicles, state troopers estimated that one in eight of the trucks that they pulled over shouldn’t be on the road. Obviously, this means that MOST of the truck drivers on the road are safe, but the one-in-eight statistic is still pretty scary.
The major problems they reported were distracted drivers and insecure trailers. In the last five years, more than 100 people have been killed in traffic accidents involving a semi truck. Cell phones are a major contributor.
As for the insecure loads… don’t you hate it when you have to change lanes to avoid the gravel flying off the back of a truck? Well, it’s illegal and it really can be deadly if drivers swerve suddenly (a completely reactionary move on their part) or if the debris cracks a windshield, reducing driver visibility. The best advice we can give? Keep your distance.
5. Dam Failure
This one is really scary. In 2015, data collected on thousands of dams across the state showed that 85% were deemed "high risk" with known deficiencies, mostly due to aging, and many potentially requiring emergency fixes…but have next to no emergency plans in case the burst.
Unfortunately, more than 70% of these dams are privately owned…which means the state doesn’t have direct control over their repair, and it is often left up to the owners or landowner associations to determine when to fix them.
More than half of the dams in the state were built in the 1950’s and 60’s and were designed for a lifespan of 50 years, but have yet to be updated. Overall, Indiana’s dams are tied with those in Kansas, Texas, Missouri, and Georgia for the "worst in the nation;" all five states have been given a D- grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers.
6. Unintentional Poisoning
Accidental Deaths are the fifth leading cause of death in Indiana. Among these accidental deaths, injuries are the most common culprit; among injuries, unintentional poisonings account for 20% of these deaths, almost double the amount of motor vehicle crashes, which make up 11%.
Most of these poisonings are caused by prescription medication use or abuse and the number of adolescent deaths resulting from medication abuse is increasing at a terrifying rate. Overall, the rate of unintentional deaths associated with unintentional poisoning increased by 502% between 1999 and 2009 according to Indiana’s yearly "Mortality Reports," and numbers have continued to rise since.
We were quite shocked to see the Drug Enforcement Agency’s 2014 national report on methamphetamine lab busts, dumpsites, and seizures, which reported unbelievably high numbers in Indiana –1,471 incidents – which were the highest in the country and accounted for 16% of all incidents for that year (totaling 9,338). Further searches for statistics revealed that Indiana has held the dishonorable status of "most meth busts in the county" since 2012, and before that consistently ranked in the "top five."
The National Drug Intelligence Center released a report on meth abuse in Indiana in 2001 that called out Evansville, Terre Haute and other southwestern cities as particularly concerning for their rapidly increasing rates of drug abuse. The report also showed rural areas of the state were particularly prone to meth use, with rural eighth grade students 108% more likely to use meth than urban eighth graders. These early reports have remained relevant and reflective of increasing usage statistics since that time.
Drug overdoses, as mentioned in the "unintentional poisoning" category above, have skyrocketed over the last two decades. Nine out of ten poisoning deaths are due to drug use and the 2015 drug overdose death rate was 16.3 per 100,000 Hoosiers.
As an unfortunate byproduct of the rapidly increasing drug abuse in the state, the number of HIV diagnoses has also increased. The small town of Austin was hit particularly hard in 2015; the city was the unexpected site of the largest HIV outbreak in Indiana history.
With a population of only 4,200, the CDC determined that the 153 confirmed cases in 2015, Austin had a higher rate of HIV than "any country in Sub-Saharan Africa." Public health officials point to several contributing factors, aside from the high intravenous drug use: relative poverty, low funding for services and education, and too few doctors created a dangerous environment with high potential for disaster. Additionally, the lack of anonymity in the rural community kept infected individuals from being tested or treated for many years.
9. Attending college
This sounds like a joke, but Business Insider included both Indiana State University and Ball State University on its "Most Dangerous Colleges In America" list, built using FBI crime statistics from 2012. Their method averaged per capita statistics for schools with 10,000+ students and weighed violent crimes significantly heavier than property crimes.
We went searching for more recent data, and while we didn’t find comparable lists, we DID find the 2015 FBI crime data for Indiana colleges and universities, and based on raw numbers of reported crimes only, Indiana University - Bloomington seems particularly dangerous, with 31 violent crimes, 16 aggravated assaults, and 14 rapes.
The "Runner Up" (by numbers alone, not per capita) for 2015 was Indiana University – Indianapolis, with 11 violent crimes, six aggravated assaults, and one rape (and one arson). Purdue, Ball State University, and Butler University were ranked three through five, respectively.
Dunes National Lakeshore made headlines in 2013 when a boy fell into a sinkhole (and, thankfully, survived). Park employees were baffled by the phenomenon, but sinkholes have continued to open up and the entire park was closed for the 2014 season.
Scientists studying the geological problems believe the sinkholes at the dunes differ from those around the state, they haven’t conclusively nailed down a "cause" for these dangerous holes to form (and suddenly give way). One theory points to decaying trees buried beneath the sand, while others cite erosion from human activities.
Sinkholes are not uncommon in the state, and Southern Indiana sees many caused by the dissolving limestone bedrock beneath the surface. While Indiana is NOT ranked as one of the most dangerous sinkhole states, they shouldn’t be overlooked; in 2011, a sinkhole caved in beneath a runway of the Monroe County airport, and sinkholes in the region are particularly slow to develop, meaning it can take months to even recognize their potential danger.
11. Living in Gary
(Insert Gary joke here)
Sorry, Gary, we can’t NOT include you on a list of dangerous things in Indiana. Don’t blame us, we’re just reporting the data. Using FBI per capita crime statistics from 2013, Movoto generated a list of "Most Dangerous Places" in Indiana, weighed heavily for violent crimes, Gary topped the list. But don’t worry, Gary, you aren’t the only dangerous city we’ll cover.
Gary’s population in just under 79,000, but the city say 4,719 property crimes and 883 violent crimes (the second most in the state). Out of the violent crimes, 54 were murders – the highest per capita in Indiana.
The three next most dangerous cities on this list are Clarksville, Indianapolis, East Chicago, but we’re going to take a closer look at number five on this list: Washington. The city of Washington has a population of around 12,000, making it the smallest place included on this list. Despite it’s smaller proportion on residents, the city had 798 total crimes, with 755 property crimes and 43 violent crimes. The numbers alone don’t look as bad compared to the bigger cities, but adjusted for size, Washington had the fourth highest crimes overall and the 12th most murders per capita.
Speaking of murder, let us take a look at Indianapolis (sorry Indy, you can’t escape this list either).
Rationally, we expect to see a higher number of crimes in more densely populated cities, and we certainly do here: Indy was home to 10,479 violent crimes in 2013, including 129 murders.
In 2014, Indianapolis was ranked 9th for most murders in capitol cities. Statistics from the National Institute of Justice reported 135 murders and 151 homicides, as well as 409 victims of non-fatal shootings. Eight of the other most violent capitol cities showed decreasing numbers of violent crimes between 2013 and 2014…but not Indianapolis. In fact, Indy saw an 8% increase over the year (still not as bad as Houston, which had a 12% increase, but these numbers are nothing to brag over).
If you’ve managed to escape the last 12 dangerous things on this list, congratulations! Unfortunately, the Hoosier state isn’t finished trying to kill you. In one last (completely unavoidable) attempt to wipe you out, Indiana has toxic air. (Curse you, upper respiratory disease irritated by massive amounts of pollution!)
Between industrial mills, factories, processing plants, and more miles of highways than any other state (hey, we didn’t get the title "Crossroads of America" for nothing), Indiana’s air quality is truly terrifying. Coal-fired power plants are some of the largest polluters on the planet; these plants release arsenic, lead, and mercury (among many other) toxic chemicals into the environment.
While air pollution negatively affects everyone – it shows a very high correlation to many of the most common causes of death nationwide – children and the elderly are at particularly high risk, as is anyone with asthma or any other respiratory condition. To be fair, the IDEM has shown improvement in Indiana’s air quality over the last 30 years…but the state still received failing grades on the 2015 American Lung Association’s State of the Air Report.
With so many dangerous things to avoid (if even possible) in Indiana, it’s hard not to want to run and hide in an underground shelter completely cut off from the outside world. Like maybe inside this luxury bunker constructed by
But running away in fear doesn’t solve any problems and, frankly, we’d get sick of our bunker-mates pretty quickly.
Although not everything on this list has a solution to work towards, many of them do; this list merely serves as a reminder that we are capable to make changes. In the meantime, we aren’t about to give up on the Hoosier state. For every bad, dangerous thing in this world, there are also
of good, beautiful things to celebrate…like our beautiful waterfalls, rich history, and awesome people. Hoosiers are a tough bunch and we’d never give up a day of living here, despite the dangers.
Instead of ending on a scary note, we are going to ask you for something different in our comments section today: tell us about your favorite parts of Indiana.
Where do you go to escape the chaos of everyday life? Where do you find the best comfort food? What are some of the most amazing things Hoosiers are doing to improve the world? What is the one thing in Indiana that you couldn’t live without?