Travel in the age of terrorism
Why I am not afraid
September 11, 2001, changed everything, but when it comes to air travel one thing truly remains the same, no matter how hard it is to believe or to wrap your mind around: The odds are still astronomically against a terrorist smuggling a bomb onto your plane—or turning your plane into one—let alone lurking behind you on the Champs-Elysées.
As Oklahoma City and September 11 have shown us, terrorism is a random act that can happen to anyone, anywhere—that’s what makes it so scary. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in the American heartland, New York City, Paris, or Tel Aviv. Frankly, I worry more about traffic and handgun fatalities at home than I do about terrorism abroad—and the statistics support it.
You are more than 54 times more likely to be murdered in a small American town than be killed by a terrorist abroad. The anti-American terrorism scares of the 1980s have all but disappeared in Europe. Even despite our largely unsupported and rather unpopular wars in Iraq, there is still not that much anti-American sentiment out there—though you might run into a few heated arguments.
The statistics say that you are 2.5 times as likely to be hit by lightning in the United States than you are to be killed in a terrorist attack, either in the air or anywhere overseas.
Just about the only thing you personally can do to ward off terrorism is to do your best not to stand out as a “rich American” (if you’re anywhere above the poverty line, you’re rich by world standards). We capitalists often make great targets for terrorists trying to make a political statement.
As far as air safety, you’ve just seen the odds of terrorist bombs in general. There are, at worst, only one in three million airline fatalities per year. That includes bombs, mechanical failure, terrorism, acts of God, and human error combined—and it includes the tiny private planes and marginal airlines that account for most crashes.
If you limit the statistics to the major airlines and large passenger jets you’ll be flying, the risk numbers jump to something highly unlikely like one in six million (some reports peg it as high as one in 12 million). And that includes September 11.
Statistically, you’re much, much, much safer in the air and traveling abroad than you are driving to work.
Just think about the security measures they've put in place since fall 2001, fasten your seat belt, and enjoy the ride.
Should you worry about terrorism? Should you give into fear? I wouldn’t. That way the terrorists win. They want us to be afraid to live our lives. I, for one, am not about to give Bin Laden's successors that kind of satisfaction.