Fear of flying is more common than you might think. In fact, more than 20 million Americans will admit to having some degree of fear associated with stepping aboard an airplane. For some of them, the fear is so debilitating that they refuse to fly entirely. The question, though, is whether or not these fears are misplaced? While plane crashes are undoubtedly catastrophic, often leaving little chance of survival, the evidence actually suggests that flying is much safer than driving - an activity that millions of Americans do every single day without so much as a second thought.
Why Air Travel is Actually Safer than Car Travel
While there are a number of factors that would seem to make air travel inherently more dangerous (namely the fact that you are thousands of feet in the air, and if something goes wrong pulling off on the shoulder simply isn't an option) there is one factor that counts more than any - traffic. The amount of air traffic versus the amount of automobile traffic isn't even comparable. To illustrate what a difference this makes in regards to safety, imagine how drastically your chances of being involved in an accident would decrease if you were the only car on the road. Save for a few wrecks that could mostly be attributed to driver negligence, the odds of you having a wreck would go down to almost zero.
This difference in traffic, combined with the fact that it takes much more training and experience to pilot a commercial airplane than it does to get your driver's license, makes air travel much safer than car travel regardless of the fact you are traveling miles above the ground.
A Few Important Statistics
If you're still not convinced that getting behind the wheel is actually more dangerous than flying in an airplane, consider these statistics. According to the Federal Highway Administration, US drivers average one accident for everyone 165,000 miles driven. The National Safety Council estimates that in 2016, upwards of 40,000 people in the US died in automobile accidents. Compare this with the fact that only 271 people died in aviation accidents in 2016 and you begin to see the statistical difference between the two.
Granted, there are obviously fewer miles flown than miles driven, but even when compared on a per-distance-traveled basis, air travel comes out as much safer. On average, fatal aviation accidents occur about once every 5 million flights, or .05 deaths per billion kilometers traveled. Compare that to the rate of deaths per kilometers traveled in a car, which are 3.1 deaths per billion kilometers traveled.
While neither flying nor driving should necessary be something you should fear, it is important to truly understand where the risks in our lives come from and to analyze instances where our fears may be unfounded. Both flying and driving deserve the utmost respect, and care must be taken to ensure your own safety and the safety of others every time you take to the road or the sky. From a strictly statistical standpoint, though, you are far more likely to be injured or killed if you choose to drive to your destination than if you choose to fly. Consider this next time you are traveling to the Nashville area, or anywhere else in the world.