Driving or Flying? A Comparison of Plane vs. Car Accident Statistics

Here, we will compare accident statistics between planes and cars to gain a better understanding of the relative safety of these modes of transportation. Analyzing accident rates, fatality numbers, and other factors will provide insights into the risks associated with driving and flying.

plane, wreck, crash landing

Accident Rates

When comparing accident rates, it’s important to consider the number of accidents per unit of travel. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the United States, in 2020, there were approximately 6.1 million car accidents, resulting in around 38,800 fatalities. On the other hand, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) reported 53 accidents worldwide involving Western-built commercial aircraft in 2020, resulting in eight fatalities.

Fatality Rates

While car accidents may be more frequent, it’s crucial to examine fatality rates to understand the severity of accidents. The fatality rate per billion vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in the United States was approximately 1.11 in 2020. In contrast, the fatality rate for scheduled commercial air transport worldwide was approximately 0.05 per million flights in 2020. These figures indicate that flying is associated with significantly lower fatality rates compared to driving.

Safety Measures and Regulations

Both the aviation and automotive industries are highly regulated to ensure safety. Aircraft undergo rigorous maintenance checks, and pilots must meet stringent training requirements. Aviation safety standards have continuously improved over the years, leading to enhanced aircraft design, navigation systems, and air traffic control protocols. Similarly, automobiles are subject to safety regulations, including crash testing, seat belt requirements, and the implementation of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS).

car accident, fire, street

Risk Factors

Several factors contribute to the contrasting accident rates between planes and cars. Flying involves professional pilots who are extensively trained and subject to strict regulations. Airplanes are equipped with advanced safety features, and accidents are often thoroughly investigated to prevent future occurrences. In contrast, driving involves a larger number of individuals with varying driving skills and behaviors. Factors such as distracted driving, impaired driving, speeding, and inadequate maintenance can increase the risk of car accidents.


Comparing plane and car accident statistics highlights the significant differences in safety between the two modes of transportation. While car accidents are more frequent and result in a higher number of fatalities, flying is associated with a lower fatality rate per distance traveled. The aviation industry’s strict regulations, extensive training, advanced safety features, and continuous improvement contribute to the relatively safer environment for air travel. However, it’s essential to note that individual risk factors, such as weather conditions, pilot error, and mechanical failures, can still contribute to aviation accidents. To ensure safety on the road, promoting responsible driving habits, implementing advanced safety technologies, and adhering to traffic regulations remain crucial.

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