Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Air Travel: Very Safe

As Nate Silver observes, even frequent fliers doesn't stand much risk of being on board a plane that experiences a terrorist incident. Lightning strikes and death by rattlesnake or bear attack are more likely, but we haven't devoted billions of dollars in government resources to reducing lightning strikes or bear attacks.

Presumably the hysteria around terrorist attacks on airplanes (and plane crashes as well), is the sense of a lack of control. It's well documented that travel by car is more dangerous on a per-mile basis than travel by airplane, but driving gives the illusion of being in charge of one's fate, or at least being able to control one's risk factors. Likewise, people who don't go backpacking stand very little chance of encountering a bear or rattlesnake. But lots of people end up in situations where flying is the only practical option. Convincing ourselves that a one-in-ten-million risk is acceptable shouldn't be that hard. I'm not sure "get a grip" is a winning political message these days, but someone needs to figure out how to make it happen before we choke airline travel to death.
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