As air travel becomes increasingly expensive or more inconvenient, travelers on the margin will choose driving rather than flying. For example, the TSA began requiring that checked baggage be screened in 2002. As a result (increased lines, etc.) total air travel dropped by about 6 percent. There is good reason to believe that the recent deployment of body-image scanning/pat-downs will have a similar effect.
The problem is that per mile traveled, driving is much more dangerous than flying. The researches estimate that in the 4th quarter of 2002, there were approximately 129 automobile deaths attributable to the switch from air travel to driving. Annually that would equal about 515 people. This is a non-significant number of individuals.
Do these new security features save enough lives to justify the real effects of American citizens deciding to drive rather than fly? I’d guess that there are numerous other ways where sufficiently similar levels of security could be achieved without hassling customers and encouraging them to skip air travel.
This is yet another troubling example of government safety regulations. The TSA was established to protect air travel. Yet if the only true result of their existence is to shift risk from the air to our roads, they haven’t actually made our lives any safer — while attacking our privacy and costing about $7 billion annually.
Via Nate Silver at The New York Times.
Photo credit: jello2594’s flickr photostream.