Is Flying Safer than Driving?
January 16, 2023 | J.L. King
People with a fear of flying are often told that flying is safer than driving or that the most dangerous part of an airplane flight is the trip to the airport. But even with statistical data that shows the likelihood of perishing in each form of travel, determining whether flying is safer than driving can still be a bit like comparing apples to oranges.
Driving vs. Flying By the Numbers
Looking simply at the raw data, it’s easy to conclude that flying is much safer than driving. According to the International Air Transport Association, out of every 7.7 million flights in 2021, there was just one crash. The overall fatality risk is 0.23% — you would need to fly every day for more than 10,000 years to be in a fatal plane crash.
On the other hand, the chances of dying in a car collision are about 1 in 101, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). But while these numbers indicate that the chances of being involved in a fatal car crash are much greater than being a victim of a fatal air disaster, there are a few clarifications.
Aircraft Are Much More Regulated than Passenger Cars
First, most of the air travel statistics you see are about flights governed by federal statute 14 CFR Part 121 – regulations regarding commercial carriers.
Federal law heavily regulates the commercial airline industry, similar to how the commercial trucking industry is regulated. Laws restrict the number of hours pilots can fly, and there are stringent safety requirements for planes.
Considering the high standards every commercial flight is held to, it’s little wonder that plane crashes are few and far between. When you realize how lax safety regulations are for drivers and their cars, you can see why there is such a variance in the likelihood of a crash.
Some states don’t even require a vehicle inspection to register the vehicle.
What Is the Most Dangerous Type of Aircraft?
Air travel statistics may not indicate that the majority of aviation deaths involve the following types of aircraft:
These smaller planes are held to different standards than those used by commercial airlines. Charter and private aircraft, “commuter planes,” and privately owned smaller planes fall under these three classifications. They’re less regulated, so the chances of a safety issue or a tired pilot are higher.
Requirements for pilot training and retraining and the inspection and maintenance of the aircraft are much lower than those for a commercial aircraft. This could explain why the number of crashes involving commercial planes is very low despite the vast majority of flights in the U.S. each year being commercial.
So Is Flying Safer than Driving?
To sum up, if you’re concerned about safe travel, a commercial flight is probably the safest way to get from point A to point B. Opting for a chartered craft or having a pilot friend transport you may be a much riskier choice for air travel.
Driving, whether it’s on an interstate or a country road, is still the most dangerous form of transportation. Many factors contribute to dangerous driving, from distracted drivers to poor road conditions, making car travel much riskier than flying.
If the unthinkable happens and you or someone you love is involved in a plane or car accident, a Griffin personal injury lawyer can help you recover compensatory damages from the party that caused the disaster.
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