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Which Mode of Transportation is the Safest?

The way we are traveling is constantly changing — now more than ever, we’re thinking about how safe our modes of transportation are. In a recent research study compiled by leading economist Ian Savage of Northwestern University, Savage found that it’s safer to travel today than ever before. In fact, fatality rates across all modes of transport have fallen dramatically since the 1970s, and highway fatalities for private cars alone have nearly halved. That said, travel risks are by no means eliminated. 

What is the safest mode of transportation?

One of the best ways to encourage safer traveling is by being well informed on the risk levels that do exist and how they differ between each of the most common forms of transportation. The safest ways to travel, from safest to least safe, are as follows: 

  • Air
  • Bus 
  • Train 
  • Car
  • Boat
  • Motorcycle 

Transportation options: from safest to least safe

Airplanes

While they may be highly publicized when they occur, commercial passenger airline accidents are extremely rare. These accidents are so rare that commercial airline travel is statistically the safest mode of transportation overall, especially for American commercial airlines which are ranked safest among worldwide carriers.  Airline accidents in the US are responsible for only .006 deaths per billion miles of air travel, with the overwhelming majority of accidents involving small air taxis or privately-owned recreational planes. Of the 646 airplane deaths recorded in the US between 2000 and 2009, a total of 549 were private plane passengers and crew. 

Buses

Second only to air travel, traveling by bus is one of the safest modes of transportation in the United States. Bus travel is a broad category that includes everything from classic yellow school buses and charter coach buses to airport shuttles and municipal bus fleets, but altogether they account for only 10 percent of yearly road fatalities. Bus travel is four times safer than passenger rail travel (another one of the safest modes of transportation), and it’s a staggering 50 times safer than private car travel. The excellent safety record of buses in recent years stems from increasingly certified and licensed professional drivers, improved roadway infrastructure, advances in bus manufacturing technology, and strict US Department of Transportation (DOT) safety standards.

Train

Train travel is also an exceedingly safe mode of transportation, coming in at a respectable third place behind bus and air travel. Much like air travel, whenever an accident does occur, it is sure to make headlines all over the world, but it’s important to note that it’s exactly the rarity of these accidents that makes them so newsworthy. Even more reassuringly, most train-related injuries and fatalities are actually associated with trespassing incidents onto active train tracks and accidents at highway level crossings, indicating that for travelers, commercial train travel is still a very safe way to travel.

Boat 

Boat travel has seen some of the most substantial safety improvements in recent decades and now lags only just behind commercial passenger train travel in terms of overall safety. It’s also important to note that 90 percent of all boating deaths occur with recreational boating — not the ferries, passenger boats, or cruise liners most of us might more regularly use for travel. Cruise liners, however, did experience particular difficulties in adequately dealing with early outbreaks of COVID-19 aboard a small number of vessels. In light of this, the cruise line industry has quickly moved to create enhanced onboard cleaning protocols as well as institute strict pre-boarding screenings to further enhance the safety of cruise liner travel in the years to come. 

Cars

While most of us may not take more than one or two flights a year, most Americans rely on private car travel on a daily basis. All that car traffic nationwide results in an average of 6 million accidents per year. Thankfully, comparatively few of those 6 million accidents result in serious injury or death. Driver fatalities only occur in one of every 114 accidents, and for passengers, the number is much lower, with fatalities occurring in only 1 of every 654 accidents. As is the case for buses, advances in manufacturing technology along with safety regulations and education programs in the past 50 years have greatly reduced overall risk, and they will no doubt continue to improve car safety moving forward.

Motorcycles

Although motorcycle travel has improved in overall safety dramatically along with all other modes of transportation in the last 50 years, motorcycles are still the most dangerous mode of transport by a substantial margin. Savage’s transportation report documents a shocking 212.57 deaths for every million miles traveled by motorcycle, compared to the vanishingly small figure of 0.11 deaths for every million miles traveled by bus. Unfortunately, recent safety technology advances for cars, trucks, and buses haven’t translated to increased safety for motorcycles, but motorcyclists can still mitigate the risks by wearing proper protective equipment at all times and being extra cautious when driving in adverse weather conditions.

Conclusion

Risks are a normal part of our lives, but at Bus.com, we feel that one of the best ways to mitigate these risks is to be prepared and well-informed. We’re committed to the most up-to-date methods of keeping our passengers, staff, and communities safe. From quickly adapting our operations during the recent COVID-19 pandemic to working closely with our bus partner networks to ensure only the most rigorously inspected vehicles go out on the road, we’re invested in safety at every step of the way.

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