Friday, October 10, 2008

Flying vs Driving

All this talk about auto insurance and the risks related to driving may make you think it’s the most dangerous way to travel. Well…it is more dangerous than most people realize.

One classic misperception about travel is that driving a car is safer than flying in an airplane. In the months after the September 2001 attacks—and particularly during the following summer—many Americans chose to drive to vacation destinations. But, on mediumlength trips, commercial flights—even factoring in the attacks of September2001—are as safe as driving a car. Over longer distances, commercial flights are safer. Some additional statistics:
  • For a trip of more than 1,000 miles, flying on a commercial airplane is generally safer than driving a car.
  • Since most plane accidents occur on takeoff or landing, the shorter the trip, the greater the risk per mile.
  • On a trip of up to 1,000 miles, you’re probably as safe in your car as in a jetliner.
  • On a per-mile-travelled basis, U.S. commercial airlines are the world’s safest form of mass transportation.
  • Depending on where you live, the drive home from the airport may be more dangerous than the commercial flight.
The terrorist attacks of September 2001 did cause an upward spike in the total number of deaths caused by airline crashes. But not that many people die each year in plane crashes. When you’re dealing with small base numbers, it doesn’t take much to increase odds ratios sharply. Any risk assessment you do is going to be volatile.

Nearly 600 people died in the four jet crashes related to the September 2001 terrorist attacks. By comparison, an extra 100,000 Americans would have to die in car wrecks to have the same impact on auto safety numbers.

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