How Safe Is Flying? Safer Than Ever, According to MIT Research

An MIT researcher found that there are far fewer passenger fatalities than there used to be.

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If you're among the 40 percent of the general population with a fear of flying, we've got some good news: A new paper published in the journal Transportation Science found that flying on a commercial airplane is safer than ever. Arnold Barnett, a statistics professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, tracked the number of passenger fatalities around the world between 2008 and 2017, and found that they fell by more than half as compared to the previous decade.

According to his findings, the current rate of death per passenger boarding is now one per 7.9 million, compared to one per 2.7 million between 1998 and 2007, one per 750,000 between 1978 and 1987, and one per 350,000 between 1968 and 1977. "The pace of improvement has not slackened at all even as flying has gotten ever safer and further gains become harder to achieve," Barnett said in a statement. "That is really quite impressive and is important for people to bear in mind."

The nations that were deemed to have the safest airlines were the U.S., members of the European Union, China, Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Israel, with China and Eastern Europe showing the strongest improvements between 2008 and 2017. Granted, the paper notes that "a troubling aspect of the findings is that the less developed nations did not gain in aviation safety relative to other countries, despite having considerably more room for improvement."

Of course, this information might not be enough to quell the anxiety of someone with severe aviophobia. In fact, Barnett himself quipped that he carried out the research in part to sublimate his "fears in a way that might be publishable."

"Flying has gotten safer and safer … although I bet anxiety levels have not gone down that much," he said. "I think it's good to have the facts."

So if you've been stalling on booking a vacation due to safety concerns, now you know! "The risk is so low that being afraid to fly is a little like being afraid to go into the supermarket because the ceiling might collapse," Barnett said.

Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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