The recent plane crash of the Russian military airliner which killed all ninety-two passengers on December 25th of this year is one of a series in recent time. But the questions to ask are, despite the frequency of such crashes recently, is flying actually the most dangerous form of transport and if it is not, why is there such a concern when there is a plane crash compared to, say, a car crash?

Airplane statistics

Before we proceed, let us provide some background information. In December 2016 alone there have been numerous plane incidents as reported on the Plane Crash Info website.

In addition to the military airliner mentioned above, on the 20th December a plane crashed in Colombia killing five people. On the 18th December a plane crashed in Indonesia killing thirteen people and on the 7th December a plane crashed in Pakistan where there were forty-eight casualties.

The safer mode of transport

But despite this, the first question to ask is, are airplanes the most dangerous form of transport? As reported on the website Cityam, Ian Savage from Northwestern University stated that in fact flying was "the safest mode of transport". This has been backed up by a survey that was taken. From the number of deaths reported of United States (US) residents between 2000 and 2009, Savage found that there were just 0.07 per one billion passenger miles.

However, this was in contrast to travelling by motorcycle which was found to be the most dangerous, with 212.57 deaths per billion passenger miles travelled. This was backed up by both CNN and the Guardian newspaper. Whereas the former stated that "nothing is safer than a U.S. commercial plane" the latter reported that between 2001 and 2010 the accident rate whilst flying was reduced by 4 percent.

Even driving a car is more dangerous. As stated on the USA Today website whereas there were more than five million car accidents in 2008, in the same year there were only 20 flying accidents.

Why the greater concern for airplane crashes?

With knowledge that flying is not the most dangerous, the second question to ask is, why is there so much more concern about airplane crashes/deaths compared to those on the roads?

I think one issue is the collateral from a plane crash. As the recent plane crash in Colombia demonstrates, which killed seventy-one people, including many from a Brazilian football team, the possibility for mass fatalities is a cause for much greater concern. If there was a car or a motorcycle crash, more often than not, the number of those killed would be minimal in comparison. This is not the case with airplane crashes. Another difference between the car/motorcycle and plane crashes is what the individual can do. With a plane crash, those on board have little or no input in ensuring that all is ok and that the plane is functioning properly. The problem with this is that they are effectively helpless.

This is not the case with vehicles on the road. The one behind the wheel most of the time has full control. They are not reliant on anybody and so if there is a fault or a problem, more often than not then can deal with it and fix it. It is also the case that cars/motorcycles are more dangerous than flying because the enormous difference between how many cars are on the road on any given day compared to that of flying. As a result, the statistics produced can be seen to be distorted.

Concluding thoughts on transport crashes

The fact that we are in much greater control in a car/motorcycle compared to on a flight is probably the primary reason why there is much more concern at being 30,000 feet in the air.

It is that feeling of helplessness that is the major problem. There will always be faults in whatever forms of transport are used. The fact that the passengers on a flight can do nothing about it compared to a car or motorcycle is the biggest problem that we face when travelling.