Plenty of people get airplane jitters, and for many people, air travel feels especially dangerous, mainly due to the news coverage whenever planes crash or have safety problems. To those afraid of flying, every instance of turbulence or engine noises can be terrifying and solidify fears about the dangers of air travel. But what do the numbers say?
There are many ways to measure how dangerous something is, and one popular method of risk assessment is calculating how many people have died per miles traveled. According to a 2013 study by the Research in Transportation Economics, about seven people die for every billion miles traveled by car, about three people die every billion miles traveled by ferries, and fewer than one person dies every billion miles traveled by bus or train. The safest of the bunch is surprisingly commercial air travel, which has just 0.07 deaths per billion miles traveled.
The reason for the common fear of flying is that people tend to fear unlikely events. Researchers have noticed that people tend to be more afraid of unlikely events, like terrorist attacks or serial killers, instead of things much more likely to kill and preventable like clogged arteries after decades of not exercising and eating junk food. Every plane crash receives extensive media coverage in which every detail is poured out onto the front page. From talk shows, to print media, and sharable online articles, everyone has heard terrifying stories of airplane crashes, which may affect how people view the perception of risk in airline travel.
One study showed that people with active imaginations and controlling behaviors are more likely to be afraid of flying. Some people are so afraid of air travel that they have hired “flight therapists.” Flight therapists accompany clients on airplanes to make them face their fears in hopes of overcoming it with exposure therapy. Clearly, the possibility of airplane crashes are more than just a casual thought to some travelers, but data says that the actual risks of air travel are very minimal. Travelers face more risk on the drive to the airport than on the actual flight!
If people can overcome perceptions about the risks of airplanes, then booking the flight can be done with no fear!