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The Safest Place to Be

Saturday’s plane crash in San Francisco cost two people their lives while several passengers remain in critical condition. While tragic, that’s a remarkably low death toll for a crash that destroyed the plane, demonstrating how efficient evacuation procedures have become.

What is perhaps most remarkable here, however, is how very long its been since the previous fatal crash of a commercial flight in the United States. That crash, which cost the lives of 49 people on the plane and one on the ground, took place on February 13, 2009, almost four and half years ago, near Buffalo, New York.

In 2012 there were more than 9 million regularly scheduled commercial flights in the United States and those 9 million flights carried 642 million passengers. That means there were 40 million flights between the doomed Buffalo flight and the one in San Francisco yesterday, 40 million flights that did not crash and which carried 2.8 billion people.

An average of 37 people a year are killed by lightning in the United States (a number that has also declined sharply in recent decades). So one person in 8.8 million is killed by lightning every year. That’s an order of magnitude greater than the chances of boarding a plane that is destined to crash.

There are lots of things to worry about in this “vale of tears” called life, but air travel isn’t one of them. Indeed, a commercial airplane is about the safest place you can be.



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