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Risk factors laid out for travel by car, plane, bus and more

Last weekend's fatal commuter train derailment hit hard for many in the Philadelphia area. The wreck north of New York City wasn't far from us, and rail is also a popular form of mass transit here.

The derailment may have some commuters considering a switch from trains to cars. Before making the change, readers should look at statistics from a new study that shows the frequency of car accident fatalities versus the frequency of commuter train fatalities.

According to the recent paper published in Research in Transportation Economics, travel by rail is significantly safer than driving on our nation's highways and streets. There are 7.28 fatalities per billion passenger miles among those in cars and light trucks, as opposed to 0.43 fatalities per billion miles on commuter and long-haul trains.

With the spate of deadly bus accidents in the past year or so, many people have become concerned that travel by bus is too risky. They should know that, according to the research, bus travel is markedly safer than even train travel, with 0.11 fatalities per billion passenger miles.

Even safer than traveling by bus is travel by plane. It might seem counterintuitive that climbing into a metal cylinder that will go thousands of feet into the sky at hundreds of miles per hour is safer, but the statistics bear it out. Aviation deaths are recorded at just 0.07 per billion passenger miles.

Let's return for a moment to the riskiest modes of travel: motorcyles, for example, are notoriously dangerous with 212 deaths per billion passenger miles. That means it's about 30 times more dangerous on a motorcycle than in a car.

Also more dangerous than traveling by car is traveling by foot. Yes, that's right: pedestrians die at about twice the rate of people in cars and light trucks. About 14 pedestrians are killed per billion miles walked.

No matter which mode of transportation a person chooses, their safety often depends on the careful observance of rules designed to keep traffic moving safely.

A conversation with an experienced personal injury attorney can make clear the best legal options available for car accident victims to be compensated for medical expenses, lost wages and other damages.

Source: Time, "Despite Metro-North Crash, Riding the Rails Is Safer Than Riding a Car," by Bryan Walsh, Dec. 2, 2013

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Gregory R. Gifford
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