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Surviving An Airplane Accident: Where You Sit Can Matter

Traditionally, airplane safety professionals and associations claim that where you sit on an airplane has no bearing on your risk in an aviation accident. However, a study conducted by Popular Mechanics based on three and a half decades of seating charts and NTSB reports suggests that areas in the back of an airplane are safer. The study suggests that passengers seated near the tail of a plane are approximately 40% more likely than passengers near the front of the aircraft to survive a crash.

The study relies on statistics gleaned over 36 years of raw data from the National Transportation Safety Board files. The files found that in many crashes, passengers seated in the back of the aircraft survived while those in the front did not. The statistics gathered during the study found that passengers seated behind the wing, in the rear cabin, had an average survival rate of 69%. Passengers seated near the wings and in the coach section immediately in front of the wings had an average survival rate of 56%. The seats in the 15% front of the airplane – which on many planes are the business-class or first-class section, had an average survival rate of 49%.

Despite the findings, however, experts are quick to note that there is no need necessarily to crowd towards the back and give up the perks of first-class flying. The statistical probability of being in an airplane is very low. It continues to be one of the safest modes of transportation, with only a few serious airplane accidents a year. In comparison, fatal car accidents occur every few seconds in this country. The average person is far more likely to be seriously injured or killed in a car accident than in an airplane accident.

As well, seating is not the only indicator of survival. There are in fact many things that passengers can do to help prevent accidents and injuries during a flight. Remaining seated with the seat belt on is a good place to start. In the event that the airplane encounters turbulence, remaining in your seat can ensure you don’t fall and injure yourself. If you are in an accident, remaining in your seat with the seatbelt fastened increases your chances of survival. In your seat, you will have access to the oxygen mask in front of you, the life vest under your seat if you need it, and you will be restrained and not flung about the cabin. Your seatbelt can easily protect you against spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, and other serious injuries as well.

Before flying, you can increase your chances of avoiding an accident and injury by checking the safety ratings and incident reports made against various airlines. Look for a commercial carrier with a good safety record. As well, get rest before your flight. Staying alert on your flight allows you to respond quickly in the event of any problems.

Once on your flight, familiarize yourself with the aircraft and your emergency exits. Review safety instructions and watch the safety demonstration at the start of the flight. Having this information fresh in your mind is important. In the event of any accident, you may have only seconds to respond, so knowing where to go and what to do could save your life.