OK, you already know this, but still fascinating to see the numbers spelled out. Your chances of dying in a plane crash are approximately 1 in 20,000; chances of dying in an auto accident roughly 1 in 100. And yet the thought of going down in a burning plane perpetually occupies a special fear-spot in the public imagination.
As our media wrings its hands relentlessly over the 11 victims of Minnesota’s Interstate 35 bridge collapse and the nine missing Utah coal miners, 42,000 people will die of cancer this month. “Meanwhile, 3,000 people, mostly sub-Saharan African children, will die today of malaria with nary an Associated Press story to spread the news.”
We care, but the diseases and the car wrecks that kill thousands of us every day are so common that they’re the opposite of news. They’re also usually too frightening to contemplate. Freak accidents, in contrast, are freakishly comforting.