A plane crashes, and it’s all over the news. Tragically, 250 people die in the crash. You see stories about it for weeks. The authorities run an extensive investigation to see what went wrong. When you talk to friends and family members, some of them admit that they feel afraid to fly in light of what happened. Instead, they want to drive.
It’s a natural feeling for many of us, but it’s not based in reality. While any death is tragic — and this is not to take away from the loss of a loved one in an airliner accident — the truth is that the roads are vastly more dangerous.
The true toll
The National Safety Council claims that 40,000 people died on the highway in 2018. This is an approximate projection, but a number rather close to that shows up every year. It was a few hundred over 40,000 in both 2016 and 2017, for instance. It’s consistent. That’s how many lives we lose in traffic accidents.
To put that in perspective, if 250 people died in a plane crash, it would take 160 plane crashes for 40,000 people to pass away. And remember that 250 is a large total for one accident. A 737 holds about half of that: 124 passengers. At that rate, you would need a 737 to crash almost every single day of the year, losing everyone on the aircraft, to reach the same total as traffic deaths.
Again, this isn’t to take away from the issue of aircraft accidents, but simply to show that many people do not understand just how dangerous the highway really is. If they worry after the news of one plane crash, they need to know that the same amount of people pass away on the roads every two to three days.
Why we feel safe
There are two main reasons why people feel safer in cars than on planes. The first is control. In a car, you control the vehicle. You trust yourself. In a plane, you have to give up control to the pilot. You feel very conscious of the fact that they hold your life in their hands — even though a trained, professional pilot is a far safer flier than you are a driver.
The second reason is the inevitability of death in a plane crash. We understand that a crash often means everyone passes away. It’s easier to imagine walking away from a car accident. Despite the statistics, we tend to cling to this idea.
As you can see, road travel is very dangerous. If you lose a loved one in an accident with a semitruck or another passenger vehicle in New Jersey, you need to know all of your legal rights.