One Thought About the Two Deaths in Asiana Airlines Flight 214

The crash of Asiana Airlines flight 214 in San Francisco on Saturday killed two people. Given the circumstances, it could have been much, much worse.

The last fatal commercial flight in the U.S. was on Feb. 12, 2009, when 50 people were killed in the crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 near Buffalo, N.Y.

The last fatal flight of a major U.S. airline was on Nov. 12, 2001, when 265 people were killed in the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 shortly after takeoff from John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.

Number of people killed in U.S. traffic accidents since the last fatal commercial crash in the U.S.: approximately 143,200.*

Number of people killed in U.S. traffic accidents since the last fatal major U.S. airline crash in the U.S.: approximately 442,600.**

Number of U.S. newspapers, TV networks, etc., that did not feature Asiana Airlines flight 214 crash as its top story: approximately zero.

Killer Cars: An Extra 1,000 Pounds Increases Crash Fatalities by 47%

Ever since the SUV craze began in the late 1980s, we've all known that heavier vehicles are safer for those driving them, but more dangerous for others on the road. Which is why we all started driving them. Now, in a new working paper, a pair of Berkeley economists have quantified not only the fatality risks of heavier cars for other drivers, but also the costs associated with them. Here's the abstract:

Heavier vehicles are safer for their own occupants but more hazardous for the occupants of other vehicles. In this paper we estimate the increased probability of fatalities from being hit by a heavier vehicle in a collision. We show that, controlling for own-vehicle weight, being hit by a vehicle that is 1,000 pounds heavier results in a 47% increase in the baseline fatality probability. Estimation results further suggest that the fatality risk is even higher if the striking vehicle is a light truck (SUV, pickup truck, or minivan). We calculate that the value of the external risk generated by the gain in fleet weight since 1989 is approximately 27 cents per gallon of gasoline. We further calculate that the total fatality externality is roughly equivalent to a gas tax of $1.08 per gallon. We consider two policy options for internalizing this external cost: a gas tax and an optimal weight varying mileage tax. Comparing these options, we find that the cost is similar for most vehicles.

Life (and Death) in the Fast Lane

A change in U.S. law has killed 12,545 people, and nobody seems to have noticed.