Despite crash, train travel remains one of safest modes of transportation

EVANSTON, Ill. (MEDIA GENERAL) –  Despite the recent deadly Amtrak train crash in Philadelphia, train travel still stacks up as one of the safest modes of transportation.

Ian Savage of Northwestern University looked at transportation trends from 1975 to 2010 to determine which type of travel is the most dangerous. His findings were published in “Research in Transportation Economics” in 2013.

Savage’s analysis showed between 2000 and 2009, on average 43,239 people died in the U.S. each year in transportation-related incidents.

Cars, trucks, SUVs: In 2012, 34,080 people died in motor vehicle crashes

Highways are by far the most common place for transportation deaths, according to Savage’s report. However, that number has dropped significantly over the years thanks to the proliferation of seatbelts and air bags among other things.

Walking, Biking: On average, 6,067 pedestrians and bicyclists died on highways and in crashes

The study said that more than 90 percent of pedestrian deaths occurred when the victims were hit by cars and light trucks.

Trains: On average, 876 people died each year on mainline railroads

The study said that the largest number of these deaths came from people and vehicles not at crossings. A “significant portion” of those deaths were possibly suicides.

“A person who was in a motor vehicle for 30 miles every day for a year faced a fatality risk of about 1 in 12,500. Relative to mainline trains, buses and commercial aviation the risk was 17, 67, and 112 times greater, respectively,” Savage’s report said.

Planes: On average, 549 people per year died in plane crashes

Most of the deaths involving planes, the study said, involved private aircraft.

If you exclude terrorism, and suicide, commercial planes are the safest form of transportation.

“A person who took a 500-mile flight every single day for a year, would have a fatality risk of 1 in 85,000,” said Savage’s report.

The highest chance of death came on a motorcycle. The report found motorcyclists who traveled 15 miles every day for a year, had “an astonishing” 1 in 860 chance in dying. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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