“Elevators are safer than stairs.” It’s one of those things you’ll hear now and then or see reported after an attention-getting elevator accident. This is especially true here in New York City, where because of the vertical nature of city development, New Yorkers average more elevator trips per capita than most other places. But are stairs really more dangerous than elevators? And if they are, what makes them so much more dangerous?
It might surprise you to learn that no one knows exactly how many elevators there are in New York City. A 2008 article in the New Yorker suggested there are around 58,000 (providing about 30 million passenger trips each day, or about 11 billion trips each year). In 2011, the editor of Elevator World Magazine estimated between 75,000 and 80,000 elevators (but this figure included the larger metropolitan area). Nationwide, the statistics are just as imprecise, with the best accepted estimates assume around 900,000 elevators collectively making around 18 billion trips per year.
Despite these enormous numbers, the injuries and deaths attributed to elevators are very low: you’re about as likely to die from being struck by lightning. In a typical year, elevator and escalator mishaps combined injure fewer than 18,000 people and cause only 25-30 deaths nationwide. One-third of those deaths were to those installing or repairing an elevator. These numbers include those who fall down elevator shafts, whether or not the elevator is actually involved.
Nationwide, specific data for stairs isn’t available. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracks all reported injuries and the total number of falls resulting in injury in 2013 was over 8.7 million. More than 30,000, mostly among the elderly and the very young, led to death.
The New York City Department of Health also doesn’t specifically break out injuries and deaths due to accidents on stairs, but it does keep statistics for total falls. More than 125,000 New Yorkers under age 65 are injured and 130 killed each year in some sort of fall. For those over age 65, at least 45,000 are injured and around 300 die from falls annually.
In some ways, this information proves the point. If only 10% of these falls happens on stairs, then they’re just as dangerous as elevators. But in some ways, we’re comparing apples and oranges. Most people use stairs much more than they use elevators, for instance, and comparing the injury rates only begins to make sense if Americans use stairs 200 to 300 times for every one trip in an elevator.
The Risks Are Real
Regardless of any other consideration, the risks are real. Accidents can happen at any time, and people are injured every day in the most mundane ways. Most accidents, however, are preventable. Elevator accidents are usually the result of poor maintenance. Slip and fall accidents are often due to negligence: a slick spill has not been cleaned up, a stairway has been poorly maintained, or a broken railing has not been repaired.
If you or someone close to you has been injured on either an elevator or a staircase, or in any other way while on another’s property, you may be able to hold the property owner accountable for allowing unsafe conditions to develop. At Greenstein & Milbauer, we understand personal injury and premises liability law, and we have specific experience with elevator accidents and slip-and-fall cases. Give us a call at 800-842-8462 for a free consultation. We’ll discuss your case and help you understand the options open to you. You can also contact us online, or use the LiveChat application on our website to have your basic questions answered at any time.