2012 Was the Safest Year Ever to Travel by Plane

According to the IATA, last year saw the lowest accident rate on record despite more than 3 billion travelers taking to the skies.

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Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 28: A view of a British Airways plane flying past the moon over day four of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships

We have good news for the more than one in ten Americans who are afraid of flying: according to a new report by The International Air Transport Association (IATA), it is safer than ever to travel on planes. The Montreal based organization found that last year marked the lowest accident rate on record for Western-built jets; around 100,000 flights landed safely at their destination every day in 2012.

There were only three fatal crashes of Western-built passenger jets in 2012, and none of these occurred on any of IATA’s 240 member airlines. During the year, close to 3 billion people flew safely on 37.5 million flights, while there were only six crashes and 75 accidents overall. A total of 414 people died in air related disasters, down from 486 in 2011. When accidents do occur, Africa is the highest risk zone: a passenger jet is 10 times more likely to experience a crash there than in Latin America, the next most dangerous territory to fly in.

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Many people with a fear of flying tend to think they will, inevitably, die if an aircraft goes down; in reality this outcome is actually unlikely. “Contrary to public perception, the most likely outcome of an accident is that most of the occupants survived,” notes Executive Travel Magazine, citing data from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Speaking with TIME following the 2009 splashdown of a U.S. Airways jet into the Hudson River — and the so-called “Miracle on the Hudson” in which all passengers were safely rescued — Ben Sherwood, author of The Survivor’s Club, explained why we have very little reason to fear air disasters. “People generally believe that no one survives a plane crash,” he explained, “but according to government data, 95.7% of the passengers involved in airplane crashes categorized as accidents actually survived.”

Statistical expert and MIT Professor Arnold Barnett told ABC News in 2011 the chance of being killed in an airplane disaster in the U.S. is 1 in 14 million — which means you could fly everyday for 38,000 years before dying in a fatal accident. Flying is also 23 times safer than driving, ABC News reports — about as dangerous as riding an elevator

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