In attempts to soothe the nascent fear of the scheduled airline traveler, passengers waiting takeoff are sometimes reminded of the cliche that they may have already completed the most dangerous part of the trip - the drive to the airport. The objective of this paper is to communicate under what conditions air travel is indeed safer than highway travel and vice versa. The conventional wisdom among risk communicators that air travel is so much safer than car travel arises from the most widely quoted death rates per billion miles for each - 0.6 for air compared to 24 for road. There are three reasons why such unqualified comparison of aggregated fatality rates is inappropriate. First, the airline rate is passenger fatalities per passenger mile, whereas the road rate is all fatalities (any occupants, pedestrians, etc.) per vehicle mile. Second, road travel that competes with air travel is on the rural interstate system, not on average roads. Third, driver and vehicle characteristics, and driver behavior, lead to car-driver risks that vary over a wide range. Expressions derived to compare risk for drivers with given characteristics to those on airline trips of given distance showed that 40-year-old, belted, alcohol-free drivers of cars 700 pounds heavier than average are slightly less likely to be killed in 600 miles of rural interstate driving than in airline trips of the same length. Compared to this driver, 18-year-old, unbelted, intoxicated, male drivers of cars 700 pounds lighter than average have a risk over 1000 times greater. Futhermore, it is shown that the cliche above is untrue for a group of drivers having the age distribution of airline passengers.

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  • Corporate Authors:

    Plenum Publishing Corporation

    233 Spring Street
    New York, NY  United States  10013
  • Authors:
    • Evans, Leonard
    • FRICK, M C
    • Schwing, R C
  • Publication Date: 1990

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Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00600338
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Oct 31 1990 12:00AM