Thursday, December 2, 2010

Relative risk

Mark Bennett (via Infamy or Praise, which does an extensive round-up of commentary on the TSA controversy):
Never mind that Heathrow is outside TSA’s bailiwick. Let’s run the numbers supposing that Al Qaeda had succeeded in 2006 in killing 1,500 people on flights leaving US airports. There were 50 other commercial air travel fatalities in 2006 (the Lexington Comair crash), so a successful Al Qaeda domestic-travel megaplot would have raised the number of fatalities to 1,550. There were 724,733,000 passenger emplanements in 2006. So if such a plot had succeeded the risk of getting on a plane in 2006 would have been 2.13 in a million. The same year there were 1.42 fatalities per million highway passenger miles, so getting on a plane in 2006 (if the imaginary domestic plot had succeeded) would have been about as dangerous as driving 150 miles.
Even in that nightmare scenario, for trips longer than 150 miles, it would have made more sense to fly than to drive. As much as Thiessen and the rest of those who are willing to give up freedom and dignity for a little more safety hate it, the risk of terrorism is not that great. That sixty-six percent of Americans polled recognize such gives me hope.

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