03 June 2009

Fear of Flying and Statistics

Due to the recent aviation accident with respect to the Air France 447 which was flying from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, it recently occurred to me that there are plenty of people who have a fear of flying. In fact, I personally know of people who would rather drive all the way to California from Buffalo than take the plane.

Now the thing that somehow surprises me is the lack of logic that most people see things. Especially with this recent crash, for example. A slew of articles about finding out the world's safest airlines came up. Wow, does the fact that Air France crashed in the Atlantic Ocean make them unsafe anymore? Because the measurement that these people use to see the world's safest airline is crash and fatality rate.

Here is an example of such a list. Now, I suppose you wouldn't find any of the 6 big carriers in the United States there. Now does that mean that they aren't safe anymore? United, American, Continental, US Airways, Delta, and Northwest are not in that list. Does that mean that you won't fly any of those? Using another line of reasoning, it is more likely for one person to die in a car accident than in an airline accident. Does that mean that we shouldn't drive anymore?

But perhaps it is an issue of control. In cars, people tend to believe that they control the movement of the vehicle. But in an airline, one is just passively sitting in an enclosed metal tube. One doesn't control the movement of the vehicle.

This brings to mind interesting constraints that people have. People tend to ignore statistical information when it comes to evaluating danger. They rather want things to be in their control, which makes a big chunk of the constraint that they have to satisfy.

(Cubic Pyramid, from my National Gallery of Art Series)


  1. Rational decisions are often overpowered by emotional ones. Captain Spock had to resign too.

  2. Final Transit,

    Captain Spock? What does that have to do with this?