If you have a fear of flying, chances are you've been told by someone, "don't worry, there's nothing to fear, flying is safe." You might have even heard the saying "you're more likely to die on the car ride to the airport than on the flight itself."
But why don't these statements help?
Because they're vague and sound a bit cliche. They lack research, evidence or statistics. What we need is raw, hard data if we want to internalize them. In short, we need the facts if we're going to make the mental shift that flying is safe.
For this reason, if you have a fear of flying, it's important that you familiarize yourself with safety statistics. This is one of the best things you can do to relieve your flying anxiety - As it's the first step toward intellectually trusting that flying is safe.
But just how safe is air travel?
In this article, I'm going to talk about the actual risks related to flying. You'll be able to see for yourself that aviation is without a doubt, the safest mode of transportation.
Is your Fear of Flying Justified?
SEBASTIAN will soon fly to New York from London on a Virgin Atlantic Airbus 330. That flight has a one-in-5.3 million chance of being in an airplane accident. Which means that he could expect to fly on the route every day, for 14,716 years, before a mishap occurred.
These numbers are courtesy of the Am I going Down iPhone app that calculates the probability of any given flight crashing. It bases it's calculation on historical information and looks at three things: the airline, departure, and arrival airports.
The app creators assess over 10 million routes and use data from The Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives, the United States National Transportation Safety Board, and the Civil Aviation Organisation to calculate these odds.
Before you start freaking out, don't worry the app was actually created for those of us with a fear of flying. By pinpointing how ridiculously low the odds of crashing are, it's goal is to reassure that we will arrive safely at our destination.
If you're curious to see how the numbers on the app have been mathematically put to the test, read this article.
Put it into Perspective...
If you're still not convinced that the odds of being in a plane crash are extraordinarily low, think about the sheer number of flights that take to the skies each year— There are 35 million flights each year, transporting 3.5 billion passengers!
If flying were in unsafe, we would see commercial airline crashes on the news daily - But truth is, we don't. In fact, according to a Dutch consulting firm and an aviation safety group that tracks crashes, no one has died from an accident on a US certified scheduled commercial airline in the past 8 years.
Wall Street Journal also announced that 2017 was recorded as the safest year in commercial aviation history.
Pretty impressive right?
When we do happen to see a plane crash on the news, it's rarely ever involving a commercial jet.
Instead, the majority of these crashes involve small planes, know as air taxis, which carry passengers to very rural destinations. Other crashes that occur more commonly involve private planes. Which makes sense as private carriers are deregulated with almost no oversight—Basically anyone with a pilot' license can fly a private plane. On the other hand, commercial aviation is regulated by multiple tiers of U.S. law, safety regulations, and intense pilot screening.
Is Flying the Safest Mode of Transportation?Flying is the safest mode of transportation. Hands down.
A professor at Northwestern conducted a study analyzing the safety of different transportation methods. The study looked at the number of deaths of US residents between 2000 and 2009, and measured findings based on the deaths per billion passenger miles traveled.
This study found that flying was by far the safest type of transportation in comparison to car, bus, train, ferry, and motorcycle.
Flying had only 0.07 deaths per one billion passenger miles. Alternatively, traveling by motorcycle was the most dangerous type of transportation with 212.57 deaths per billion passenger miles traveled. Commuting by car had 7.28 deaths per billion passenger miles traveled.
The conclusion: Getting on a plane is 100 times safer than getting into your car.
You're More Likely to Die Crossing the Street
We've seen that flying is the safest type of transportation, but how does flying measure up compared to other everyday activities?
To answer this question take a look at this infographic created by the American National Safety Council:
As you can see, we tend to fear the wrong things. We worry about our plane crashing or being struck by lightning. But these things are so unlikely to happen they cannot be considered real threats. Instead, it's the everyday, mundane things we do that pose the most danger to us.
For example, in your lifetime, your odds of dying by crossing the street are much higher than the odds of you dying in a plane crash.
Despite these stats, so many of us have a fear of flying yet are unbothered by crossing a street. Why is this?
Our Risk Perception is Often Skewed
As humans, we like to think of ourselves as logical thinkers that use facts to guide our senses, but the truth is humans are not the greatest at risk perception. We also have a tendency to fear big, unlikely catastrophes instead of the things that actually kill us, like heart disease.
According to David Ropeik, author of "How Risky is it, Really?" the deadliest plane crash to date, happened in 1977 in Tenerife when 583 people were killed after two airplanes collided on the runway.
However, in America, the same amount of people die from heart disease every eight hours. Yet how many people do you know that have a heart disease phobia?
Ropeik argues that the reason why plane crashes are categorized as "catastrophes" and heart attacks are not is because they meet three criteria:
"A catastrophe has to be big, it has to happen all at once, and something about it has to be calamitous—disastrous—really bad.
A plane crash certainly qualifies. It kills a lot of people all at once, in one place, and in a really horrific way. But heart disease [...] meets only one of those criteria. As awful as heart disease and stroke and diabetes are, they don't kill people in such vividly awful ways as plane crashes."
Needless to say, fear of flying is an irrational fear when compared to other things that take lives.
Many of us have heard that flying is exceptionally safe, but if you have a fear of flying, you need more than other people's words of reassurance to build your confidence in flying. You need to see the safety statistics first hand. Because there is something incredibly comforting about seeing hard data.
Once you get the facts, you'll be able to begin trusting that that flying is safe.
If you have a fear of flying tools like the "Am I Going Down?" app give you a glimpse of how unlikely the odds are of you being involved in a plane crash. It actually gives you a specific prediction of your odds of "going down" based on your unique flight details.
A recent study by Northwestern University has also found that flying is the safest form of transportation to date. It beats traveling by car, train, bus, ferry, and motorcycle by a long shot.
Finally, many of us have a fear of flying, but in reality, it's the everyday situations that we're exposed to that pose the greatest risk to us. Findings from the American National Safety Council show us that flying is not a real risk when compared to other things. It's ordinary activities that we do like crossing the street which in reality are the most dangerous.