Shark Week? Discovery Channel's missing the true killers among us.

The cable network's annual TV special explores the murky world of the shark -- from underwater investigations on how they seek out prey to tales from shark attack survivors. The special series runs through Aug. 4 on the Discovery Channel.
By Melissa Bell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 4, 2010; 12:02 PM

The great white shark leaps from the sea, torrents of water pouring down its rubbery skin, its rows of razor-sharp teeth exposed. And then the massive jaws crunch down on some poor dolphin, seal, [insert other adorable sea mammal here]. All in terrifying slow motion. Repeat ad nauseam.

Welcome to Shark Week, Discovery Channel-style.

For 23 years, the TV channel has gripped audiences with its week-long documentary series on the deadly beast. But are sharks really worth all that fuss?

Shark attacks accounted for only one death in 2007 in the United States. Whereas the unassuming, grass-chomping cow? Twenty-seven deaths a year can be attributed to cattle violence, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, using data from 2003 to 2007.

Where are the slow-motion scenes of the brutal bovine?

Cows are not the only danger more deadly than a shark. The simple hot water tap causes 34 deaths a year. Being struck by lightening? Not that rare. Lightning kills nearly 50 people each year.

(Photos of sharks, penguins, and more in Animal Views)

It could even be more dangerous to walk by the office Coca-Cola machine than it is to swim with the great whites. Vending machines kill about two people a year. (Though, a grain of salt: vending machine statistics were taken by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission between 1978 and 1995 -- before vending machine makers added safety labels warning thirsty patrons not to tilt the machines to get at the sodas.)

Of course, the vending machine can also help save a life. The vending machine skirt, created by Japanese artist Aya Tsukioka, can be pulled over a woman's body to disguise her as a Coca-Cola machine, potentially hiding her from an attacker.

It's yet to be determined whether the vending machine skirt can fool a shark.

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