While the statistics may vary a little depending upon how you measure travel – by time spent traveling, by miles traveled, or by trips taken, for the most part the results are the same. The list below is ranked by deaths per hour spent traveling, starting with the most dangerous way to go first. The data and statistics provided in this list come from An Allianz Initiative Open Knowledge Report.
The ranking (deaths per million hours of travel) is based on eight forms of transportation: motorcycles, bicycles, walking, cars, by water, airplanes, trains, and buses. If you try to rank them yourself before reading this travel and transportation official report and then compare what you think to the data you may be surprised. Some of it makes sense, but some of it just doesn’t seem logical.
#1 – Motorcycles: Okay, this is probably everyone’s first guess. And, you’re right, it is 9 times more dangerous than riding a bicycle. Even though motorcycles only account for 1% of road traffic they are the cause of 20% of the road-fatalities. The CDC reports that between the years 2001 and 2008 there were more than 34,000 motorcyclists killed and approximately 1,222,000 motorcyclists treated for non-fatal motorcycle accident related injuries.
#2-Bicycles: Who doesn’t ride a bicycle – well you may have second thoughts after reading this. You are more than twice as likely to be killed cycling than you are walking. There are .5 deaths per million hours of bicycling or 1 death for every 2.9 lifetimes spent on a bike. Over a hundred people a year die while biking and almost all of these fatalities came from being hit by cars. You are pretty vulnerable out there sharing the road with cars. And, of course always wear a helmet because the statistics just increase for a more serious injury if you don’t.
#3-Walking : What – walking? I know, I was surprised too. But, there are .22 deaths per million hours of foot travel, which makes you nearly twice as unsafe as a pedestrian as you would be in a car. Hundreds of people die each year while minding their own business and just walking along. But, keep on walking because it’s healthy for you and for the environment and you can walk for about 7 lifetimes and probably be safe. Remember, though, these stats do not include the risks of texting while walking.
#4-Cars: You are probably surprised that this isn’t #1 or at least #2, because it seems that most of us have that near car crash or car crash story and we hear about auto fatalities all the time. But, that is because we spend so much time in cars not because driving in a car is that much more dangerous. There are .13 deaths per million hours of travel, but you can decrease that by half if you drive in a van – much safer. Around 5 people a day and almost 900 per year die in a car . What these stats means is that you can ride in a car for about 12 lifetimes before you stand a statistically even chance of death. (Of course, many people spend much of their lives in a car.).
#5-Water: This is the first mode of travel in our ranking which for the most part would be considered public transportation. While I don’t think these stats are including swimming accidents, shark attacks, they probably include speedboats and jet skis. But the bulk of the data is public travel by boat or ferry. So this means travel by water is the least safe means of public transportation. It accounts for .05 deaths per million hours of travel which means you could travel by boat for nearly 32 average human lifetimes before you are likely to die.
#6-Air: Although many of us have a fear of flying, the data shows this fear to be irrational because it really is very safe with only .038 deaths per million hours of travel. That is almost 50 lifetimes’ worth of flying without a fatality. In other words you are more likely to get attacked by a shark, struck by lightning, become a billionaire or become President than you are to die in a plane crash. Millions of planes are flying above us over the course of a year without incident. But do consider that you are far safer flying commercially than in a small plane with a friend.
#7-Trains: Similar to air travel, trains are pretty safe with only .03 deaths per million hours of rail miles. So that means 50 lifetimes of rail travel with only about one passenger every other year (counting everyone traveling by train) finding themselves on the wrong side of the tracks. It’s sad to say but when a train hits something it’s usually the person or object it hits that will be injured the most.
#8-Bus: I don’t think anyone would choose to ride a bus – but it is safe. There is only 1 death per 100 million (or .011 deaths per million) hours of bus travel. It would take about 159 lifetimes of bus travel to die on a bus. So relax and enjoy the ride.
So what does all of this mean – will any of us change our preferred means of travel? I don’t think so. Because, really, based on this data we should all trade in our walking shoes for bus tickets. But that won’t burn calories or be as healthy for our hearts and we’ll instead increase our risks of dying in other ways. So, just be as safe as possible and enjoy the view.