Listening to the Numbers
The German Statistical Office (Destatis) published a survey of people wounded or killed in traffic. It compares the transport modes by the number of injuries per billion passenger-kilometers. A passenger-kilometer is the journey of one person of one kilometer. For example, a car ride of two people for 50kms equals 100 passenger-kilometers.
The report found that 276 people per billion passenger-kilometers were injured in cars. Buses are a little safer with 74 injured. The second safest mode of transportation is a train with 2.7 injured. Planes are even better: only 0.3 people injured.
Are VIPs Really Different?
What might be the reasons for the observations that VIPs die only on the road or in the air? Maybe one explanation for the road accidents is that VIPs can afford fast luxury cars. Going extremly fast, it is much easier to have an accident and kill yourself, like James Dean.
On long distances, a plane is the other favorite mode of transportation for celebrities. Planes offer more privacy than railways. Long gone are the days of luxury trains such as the Orient Express that catered to the needs of the rich and the famous. And today’s VIPs are often famous all over the world, so they have to travel by plane to other continents.
But why did I perceive trains to be so much safer than planes? Maybe VIPs just travel much more person-kilometers by plane compared to train, so the total number of accidents is higher. This proves once again that the perceived risk can be much different from the real risk, because the media focusses on the most spectacular events.
Lessons for Celebrities
What travelling advice shall we give to VIPs? Shall we tell them to take trains? The data does not support this, as planes have a safety comparable to trains. But celebrities should clearly prefer air and rail over road. These systems are run by professional staff in systems with high safety regulations. These makes them inherently much safer than cars.
If VIPs want to hit the road, they are responsible for their own safety. And there they can do a lot to beat the statistics. They should follow the same advice as every normal human being:
Taking this advice seriously, we can enjoy the lives of our beloved celebrities – and our own – much longer.