This is a question we’re hearing a lot today and travel to Europe is down as a result of recent suspected terrorist-related incidents. On hearing some words of concern from friends who are thinking about going to Europe, I decided to put their fears into perspective.
In 1982, I went to England on a school trip at a time when the United Kingdom was under threat from IRA terrorists. Attacks in London were routine with four alone in 1982 yet no one questioned the safety of London for our trip. Granted, in 1982, it wasn’t played and replayed on the news 24/7.
Reporting the news has changed significantly in the last few decades. It’s gone from being a source of information to a money-making industry. The formula is simple – the more sensational the story, the more viewers and the greater the revenue. And nothing draws in viewers like the word “terrorism.”
So, with the current air of concern, I decided to set aside the emotional aspect and look strictly at the numbers. Just how safe is it to travel to Europe now?
To this end, I did a little research on the odds of dying in a terrorist act and came across some interesting statistics including a recent study by a renowned data scientist named Dr. Usmani that explored these odds. He calculated that, worldwide, the odds of dying in a terrorist act while aboard an aircraft was 1 in 25 million and that the odds of dying from any form of terrorism is 1 in 9.3 million.
Now, lets put the 1 in 9.3 million number into perspective.
You decide to avoid Europe and go to Costa Rica, a paradise right on your doorstep. What do you do on the day you fly south?
You wake up, excited, on the day of departure but you have to be careful. You are 463 times more likely to die in a fall as you make your way to the bathroom than you are from a terrorist act.
Your next step is a shower. But beware – you are 11 times more likely to die from a fall in the shower. You opt to take a bath instead but you’re 14 times more likely to drown in your tub.
You make it to the kitchen and pour your favourite cereal into a bowl. You might want to think twice. You are 25 times more likely to choke to death on food than die from a terrorist act. Want a coffee? Be careful plugging in your old coffee maker. You are 1860 times more likely to die from electrocution. You also have to be careful pouring your coffee. You’re twice as likely to die from a hot water burn. And watch your eggs closely. You are 114 times more likely to die from smoke, fire and flames if that towel next to the element catches fire.
You turn on the TV to watch the morning news and hear about quakes in Chile, tsunami in Japan, floods in Louisiana, but you shrug and think nothing of it. It’s not affecting your neighbourhood. In reality, you are 41 times more likely to die in an earthquake, flood or other force of nature than you are from an act of terrorism.
You close up the house and head out to the taxi but watch out for dogs on the loose. You are 13 times more likely to die from a dog bite than from a terrorist act.
Does the sky look threatening? You’re 16 times more likely to be killed by lightning. How about the taxi driver? Does he look sketchy? What about the jogger running by your place? This is important as you’re 566 times more likely to die as a result of an assault than from a terrorist act.
Is the taxi driver a good driver? Is the guy coming at you in the oversized pick-up truck more interested in texting than driving? Your chance of dying in a car accident is 500 times more likely than it is from a terrorist act.
Perhaps you decide to walk instead. Do you know the neighbourhood? You’re 516 times more likely to be murdered. And stay away from rivers and ponds. You’re 118 times more likely to drown accidentally.
You make it to the airport and decide to have something to eat. Did you know you are 3 times more likely to die from food poisoning? So, you give up on that idea and have a drink, but not too much. You are 11 times more likely to die from alcohol poisoning than from a terrorist act.
You get on the plane, but don’t worry. In 2013, only 210 people died out of the almost 3 billion passengers that flew that year. None died at the hands of terrorists.
Once you’re on the ground in Costa Rica, watch for the bees and venomous snakes. You’re 93 times more likely to die from stings than from a terrorist act.
You make it to resort after a hectic day of travel. You sit on the beach and haul out a book, trying to calm your nerves. How is your health? Because you’re 404,000 times more likely to have a fatal stroke than die from a terrorist act. And you’re 1.8 million times more likely to die from heart disease. Got any Aspirin handy? If you’re American, you should know that 100 people die from accidental drug overdoses every single day. That means more Americans die from accidental drug overdoses in the United States in four days than died from terrorist acts overseas in a span of twelve years (2001-13).
But you’re not thinking about that. You’re in Paradise. The sand, the surf, the sun, and as far as the media is concerned, no real terrorist threat. Just the threat of slipping in the shower, drowning in the tub, falling, eating bad food, getting stung by bees, drinking too much, having a heart attack or stroke, being bitten by a dog or struck by lightning. Not to mention being killed by one of Costa Rica’s six active volcanoes.
With your luck, you’ll be killed by a coconut falling on your head. It’s one of the very few things less likely to kill you than a terrorist.
So, pack your bag and enjoy your vacation. If you sit at home worried about terrorism, they have won.
Go and have fun. Be aware of all things that can potentially harm you, be sensible, take the same precautions you would at home, and most of all, enjoy your life.
You only have one.