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Why do people think that traveling by airplane is safer than traveling by automobile?

Yes, airplane crashes happen much less frequently than automobile accidents. But if you are in an airplane accident, then you almost certainly get killed, whereas with automobile crashes it is quite likely that you will esacpe with only minor injuries, or no injuries at all.

For example, in a famous 1977 airplane accident in Tenerife, in the Canary Islands of Spain, two airplanes were destroyed and 583 out of the 645 people there were killed, and even the survivors were severely injured. I saw a PBS show about it recently, and it convinced me never to travel by airplane.

But yesterday, I was involved in a car accident. The drivers and the passengers of both cars were uninjured, and even the cars were only mildly scraped (the paint), and they still are usable.


In the first paragraph I misspelled "esacpe"; I meant "escape", and I mean "escape" as in "survive".

8 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Because of exactly what you mentioned. Airplane crashes happen less freqently, but they are much deadlier when they do happen.

    And that is just one of many airplane crashes. One of the main dangers with flying an airplane is high altitude; an airplane is usually five to six miles above sea level (which is really a mind boggling distance), and is above the clouds if any clouds are present.

    Suppose that you are on a ship. There is an emergency situation and the ship must make an emergency stop. The ship is in the middle of the ocean, but there may be some islands nearby, plus lifeboats.

    Now suppose that you are on an airplane in the same situation, only here obviosly the airplane is several miles above the ocean, and obviously there are no lifeboats or "lifeplanes". In this situation an emergency landing takes much longer, because the airplane must descend from its high altitude.

    A good example of this danger with airplanes is shown in a 1998 flight that was known as the "UN shuttle". It was a Swissair flight (the famous Flight 111), and the airplane tail number was HB-IWF (tail number is to airplane as license plate is to automobile). An inflight fire required the airplane to make an emergency landing (which is known as a "diversion", when the airplane lands in an airport other than the destination). However, the problem was the high altitude: it had a 33,000 feet (~6 miles) altitude. Had the altitude been smaller, the diversion attempt might have been succesful and the crash might not have occurred.

    I agree with you completely, airplanes are very scary. The thought of a crash is a dark thought, but I wonder who actually thinks that airplanes are safe. I never travel by airplane either.

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  • Lori
    Lv 4
    4 years ago

    I'm planning on staying off the roads this weekend. Seems like hot tempers, lack of patience, and high priced gas seems to make a lethal combination even more these days. I had my car totaled in Jan. living here in S.C.. It was my first accident ever...the guy ran a red light and totaled my car. I loved my little neon, and it was paid for. Two weeks ago I finally got another car and I plan on keeping out of harm's way as much as possible. My oldest son is only 1.9 miles away so if he's offering to grill, I'll be offering to eat. For everyone that will travel, be careful and have a great holiday weekend.

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  • Anonymous
    3 years ago

    In Tenerife you can do anything you're feeling like any day of the season as a result of their weather, normal surroundings and tourist infrastructure made for fun for all the household which means this place is an ideal place for a good vacation and with hotelbye you will get it. In Tenerife are plenty of points waiting for you to find and one particular is in the south west shore of Tenerife. A location that is a spectacular location for seeing whales free in the ocean. Up to 26 species are observed just off the shore, including baleen whales, monster whales, dolphins, pilot whales and actually blue whales. In Tenerife you may also see The Teide National Park. At 3,718 metres, Teide volcano is Spain's best peak and its two ecosystems make the rise an experience saturated in contrasts.

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  • Cate
    Lv 5
    1 decade ago

    If you look at actual statistics more people do die in cars then in airplanes. Yes there are many minor car accidents - but the amount of major ones greatly outweigh the amount of deaths due to airline crashes. Even with the large numbers of people in an aircraft when it crashes. You should do some more research before swearing off flying forever. I've worked for an airline and have seen some terrible crash videos during my training. I have also been in a crash landing where one of our engines actually caught fire...but I still fly because I have looked at the statistics of it. I also still drive but I honestly feel less comfortable in a car.

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  • 1 decade ago

    Because air travel IS far safer. There are far fewer planes in the air than there are cars on the road. Air accidents only grab headlines because so many people die at one time.

    According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety:

    "42,642 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2006 [in the United States]. The Institute publishes statistical facts about the motor vehicle safety picture in 2006, the most recent year for which fatality data are available. Fatality Facts are updated once a year, when the US Department of Transportation releases data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS)."

    An airline crew is professionally trained and regularly tested for competence, drugs and alcohol. Compare that to the people who think they can text-and-drive, drink-and-drive, get-wasted-and-drive, read-and-drive, eat-and-drive, yell-at-their-kids-and-drive or drive half-asleep. Most people can barely pass a four-right-turn driving test - forget about being able to make a high speed merge onto an expressway. Some people don't even bother to get a license, while others drive on a suspended one. Others can't be bothered to signal their turns, obey any laws at all, or show any courtesy to anyone else on the road. It's only good car design, great reflexes and sheer luck that keeps most people alive in a crash.

    Glad you were one of the lucky ones.

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  • JuanB
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    Your evidence is a plane crash from 30 years ago? You realize the equivalent technology for car crashes back then did not include seat belts or air bags or even crumple zones? If you are comparing you accident today with a plane crash, compare it to one this year. I disagree with you, many airline accidents have high survival rates. Some don't, but many do.

    I watch a program called mayday - it looks at numerous flight crashes over the years, including the flaws and investigations. Almost every crash had significant survival rates, and almost every crash investigation fixed flaws that caused the problem.

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  • 1 decade ago

    it is safer to travel by plane. if you're going to make a comparison you cant compare just one accident with another. you need to do it over an elasped time to see how many times it may occur because in that instant the car was safer but as a whole it may give a different result.

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  • kapn
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    Miles traveled vs fatality.........much less than driving.........

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