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Answered 2010-01-07 22:09:05

It depends on what you are asking.

Most likely, you are asking if it is safer to take a plane on a trip than a car. For the answer to that, the first place to start would be looking at per-mile statistics. Generally speaking, for long flights, the miles which would be driven by a car to get from A to B are significantly greater than those which are flown by the plane.

If a particular individual traveled 1,000 miles in a plan they would have a 1 : 1,400,000 chance of dying (one fatal accident per 1.4 billion miles flown).

If the same individual traveled 1,000 miles in an automobile, they would have a 1 : 63,000 chance of dying.

This means that airlines are 22 times safer (when only fatalities are involved) than automobiles, per mile flown/driven. Considering that the 1,000 mile trip in a plane will likely be more like 1,500 in the car, and that non-fatal but debilitating injuries are presumably more common in automobile accidents than in plane crashes (although plane fatalities are surprisingly low in accidents; over 95% of all people involved in airplane crashes survive!), and it is safe to say you'd be better off traveling by air.

The main caveat here, though, is that almost all of the risk of crashing in an airplane is during takeoff and landing, while automotive accidents and fatalities are much more evenly distributed throughout the trip. During takeoff, the most stress is placed on the plane structurally. During landing, the most stress is placed on the pilots and navigational equipment. A long flight will have that risk averaged out for a low risk per mile, but short "puddle jumps" concentrate the risk. As a result, while a 3,000 mile trip is a clear win for an airplane, a 100 mile puddle-jump might be riskier than driving.

Also, saving money by taking a few extra "hops" instead of a direct ticket not only costs you in terms of time sitting in the airport, but it also doubles (or triples) your crash risk.

If you are asking how many people die in airplanes each year compared to in cars, the figures are even more divergent. "In 2000, there were 41,800 traffic accident fatalities in the US compared to 878 commercial airplane fatalities that same year." (http://www.flightattendantcabincrewtraining.com/airlinecrash.htm), which means more than 47 people died in car accidents for every one who dies in airplane crashes.

If you are asking if getting on a plane is more likely to kill you than getting into a car (which generally seems like a silly question), then the answer is "yes". The particular flight is 12 times more likely than a particular automobile trip, according to http://www.airtravelsurvival.com/pages/plane-crash-statistics.htm although it is unclear just how "minor" a trip is considered in the automobile side (example, is each trip to the store a separate trip, and if traveling across the country is that one trip of 3,000 miles or one trip for each day of travel?)
Yes; there is a lower fatality rate in people travelling in airplales than cars comparitively.

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