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Fear of Flying

There’s no way to know for sure how many people scrap air travel every time the Homeland Security Department plays around with its color codes and makes cryptic comments about real or imagined security threats.

But before you donate your frequent flier miles to charity and call AAA to map out your next long-distance trip, consider this: A person who flies a hefty 100,000 miles a year on large commercial jets has a 1 in 500,000 chance of dying in a plane crash, according to the research organization. If you only take a couple of trips every year, you have a better chance of winning Powerball than dying on a plane.

Over a lifetime of driving, your odds of dying in a car wreck are about 1 in 90, or 1 in 6,200 in any given year. On average, the death rate for driving a car is about four times higher per mile traveled than flying a commercial plane. In other words, every time you let your fear of flying push you behind the steering wheel of your car for a long trip, you actually increase your odds of dying.

This comes to you from the world’s most paranoid air passenger. Every bump makes me squirm in my seat. I end up reading the same line of the same magazine over and over because of my inability to concentrate. I know my fears are irrational, but flying just isn’t as familiar and routine to me as driving a car.

But apologies in advance to anyone who has to sit next to me on a future flight. I’m not about to let my silly fear of flying stop me from going to the places I want to go.

Last year, I was on a plane to Pittsburgh when we hit a patch of turbulence over Central Pennsylvania. Beverage service was stopped, and the captain asked the flight attendants to strap themselves in. One sat down in the seat across from me.

What a scene I must have been, clutching the arm rests until my knuckles went white and having my pointless breathing exercises interrupted every time we hit another bump.

“Are you all right?” the flight attendant finally asked.
“I’ll be fine,” I said, truthfully. “This isn’t nearly as bad as the cab ride to the airport.”