Fear of Flying? Airplanes Are, In Fact, the Safest Way to Travel

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Few people need a Xanax before getting in the front seat of a car, but plenty of people have a debilitating fear of airplanes. If you're already getting sweaty palms thinking about your next big vacation, take a deep breath. As Popular Science reminds us, flying is actually the safest way to travel, statistically speaking.

It can be hard to imagine that if you've read even one news story about a plane crash. In April 2018, a woman died on a Southwest Airlines flight when an engine blew up and shattered the window next to her seat, partially sucking her out of the plane.

The thing is, plane crashes make the news in part because they are so rare. An average of 3287 people across the world die in car crashes every day. In addition to the 1.3 million people who die in road crashes each year, the Association for Safe International Road Travel estimates that 20 to 50 million more are injured or disabled.

Compare that to commercial air travel: The Dutch aviation consultants at To70 estimate that commercial passenger jets see just one fatal accident for every 16 million flights. According to a different study [PDF], for every 1 billion passenger miles traveled by car, 7.2 people die; by plane, it's 0.07 people.

In 2017, there were zero deaths related to commercial passenger jet accidents around the world. The Southwest incident in April marked the first accident-related death on a U.S. passenger airline since 2009. (There were some accident-related fatalities on international carriers during that period, including three people who died after an Asiana flight crashed in San Francisco in 2013.)

Private airplanes aren't as safe as commercial airplanes, though. Out of 646 U.S. airplane deaths recorded between 2000 and 2009, 549 were private plane passengers and crew. Private planes have fewer safety features than commercial flights, and private pilots have far fewer training requirements. Still, there are far fewer private plane crashes than there are other transit-related fatalities.

If you can't stomach plane turbulence, according to transit fatality statistics, your next safest bet would be to take a bus, then a train, then a ferry, and last—by far—a car.

So if you're really worried about your safety while traveling, skip the road trip and head for the airport.

[h/t Popular Science]