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Transportation: Safety in Numbers

December 23rd, 2012
transit, safety

Safety is a social dynamic. When something sufficiently bad happens people get upset and try to prevent it happening again. Every mode of transportation can be run in many ways, primarily trading off safety, speed, and cost. Airplanes are not inherently safer than cars, but the level of risk we're willing to accept with them is much lower. Why? Because when a plane crashes a lot more people die, enough to make news, enough to make regulations. Vehicles that hold more people are held to disproportionately higher standards in their design, construction, and operation, because of the immense negative feedback their creators and operators get when things go wrong. Which means there's a good rule of thumb for estimating the safety of different transportation options: the more people that would die along with you in an accident, the less likely an accident is.

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