Planes, Trains and Automobiles – how scared should I be?1 min read
Yesterday’s Yemenia Airlines crash was the second one this month involving a large number of passenger fatalities. Although there is at least one survivor and hopefully more, these events renew anxieties about flying and overshadow just how safe flying commercially has become.
The Internet is a great tool for researching airline safety, but it is easy to get swamped by facts and figures. Airline Safety Records.com and its companion site, AirSafe.com, are for those who want to get mired in the details.
For me, the most helpful table I could find was on Wikipedia and came from, of all places, Alycidon Rail, the “website of Roger Ford, Industry & Technology Editor of Modern Railways and Founding Editor of Rail Business Intelligence.” While the facts are from a decade-old study from the UK Department for the Environment, Transport and Regions (DETR), it analyzes deaths from different forms of transportation in three ways – deaths per billion journeys, deaths per billion hours and deaths per billion kilometers (note: I assume that this study is using the British ‘billion’ which is a million million or 1,000,000,000,000, not 1,000,000,000, so these numbers are a thousand times better than you might first have thought!).
While air travel doesn’t look relatively good on a deaths per journey basis (it is only safer than riding on a motorcycle or a bicycle by this measure), on a deaths per distance-traveled basis, it is by far the safest form of transportation.