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America Made Air Travel Ridiculously Safe But Doesn't Care About Road Travel

Last week, the New York Times published a report on airline safety that found planes come close to crashing far more frequently than previously thought. In just the last couple of months, commercial planes came close to hitting each other at least 46 times. Those close calls have also reportedly been happening more frequently, with one database showing they’ve doubled over the last decade. Understandably, people who were interviewed expressed concern that if nothing changes, it’s only a matter of time before a crash happens, and people die.

At the same time, though, the United States still has an incredible record of airline safety. About three million people fly on commercial airlines in this country every day, and over the last decade, only two people have been killed. Those deaths are still tragedies, but that’s also pretty impressive when you consider how many planes take off and land here every year. It’s also important to point out that the article had a lot of people seriously concerned even though we’re talking about the potential for plane crashes to happen, not crashes that are actually happening.

As Vox recently pointed out, though, as a country, we don’t show anywhere near the same level of concern about road safety. The possibility of more than two people being killed on commercial airlines in a decade is cause for concern, but as a society, we’ve generally accepted that the more than 365,000 road deaths that occurred over the same time period are just the way things are meant to be. Everybody needs to drive everywhere all the time, and dying every time you leave your house is just something you have to be OK with if you want to live in the land of the free.

That doesn’t mean we should throw up our hands and give up on making air travel safer. We should absolutely hire more air traffic controllers and do whatever else is necessary to reduce the number of near misses in the air. As Vox argues, we should be working to make road travel more like air travel, not the other way around. We may never be able to make our roads perfectly safe, but it’s not like there aren’t plenty of things we can do to make our roads safer.

It’s not like making roads safer is a mystery that needs to be studied for years before our top scientists can possibly hope to discover a few answers that might possibly help. We know what we need to do because other developed countries are already doing those things. They’re making their roads safer, while the U.S. remains the lone outlier. Things keep getting worse here while they continually get better in other countries that are actually trying.

The article and its list of suggestions are longer than we can summarize here, so head over to Vox and give the whole thing a read.


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