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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Odds of Dying in a Terrorist Attack

The Eyewash Station has some interesting stats:
You are 13 times more likely to die in a railway accident than from a terrorist attack
You are 12,571 times more likely to die from cancer than from a terrorist attack
You are six times more likely to die from hot weather than from a terrorist attack
You are eight times more likely to die from accidental electrocution than from a terrorist attack
You are 11,000 times more likely to die in an airplane accident than from a terrorist plot involving an airplane
You are 87 times more likely to drown than die in a terrorist attack
You are 404 times more likely to die in a fall than from a terrorist attack
You are 17,600 times more likely to die from heart disease than from a terrorist attack
You are 1048 times more likely to die from a car accident than from a terrorist attack
You are 12 times more likely to die from accidental suffocation in bed than from a terrorist attack
You are nine times more likely to choke to death on your own vomit than die in a terrorist attack
You are eight times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist

36 Responses to “Odds of Dying in a Terrorist Attack”

  1. Lily says:

    Perspective-restoring facts, indeed. The only trouble, of course, is that those whose perspective needs restoring aren’t interested in stuff like this! (But thank you anyway.) And I am loving your book, by the way and looking forward to your visit.

    jb says: Thanks, Lily. And I’m glad to hear you like Winged with Death. It’s not a requirement, of course, but makes it easier to come over to your place.

  2. rhonda eller says:

    Let’s do everything possible to keep those odds at a minimum.

    jb says: Thanks, Rhonda. The alternative course wouldn’t help any of us.

  3. Austin says:

    I wasn’t scared to die from a terrorist attack, but now I’m scared of all those other things

    jb says: Fear is a killer in itself, but we can hold hands, Austin.

  4. joel horton says:

    Yeah you liberals keep making your snide remarks about what our country is doing to protect us from a terrorist attack. You make sure and post the stat on this witty little page once one of these Islamic groups sneaks a nuclear bomb into down town NY and kills a few MILLION Americans. I bet you shut your snide mouth up after that.

    jb says: Snide is a lovely word, isn’t it Joel. It describes someone who is supercilious or jeering, and it has the rare quality of turning on the user and allowing us to see his curling lip. Sleep safe.

  5. Richard says:

    You are saying that I am more likely to die in a plane crash than I am a car crash? You are also saying that I am almost as likely to die from cancer as I am from a plane crash. I think your math might be off.

    jb says: Not my math, Richard. I can only count to ten using my fingers.
    These ratios were compiled using data from 2004 National Safety Council Estimates, a report based on data from The National Center for Health Statistics, the U.S. Census Bureau, and 2003 mortality data from the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

  6. To Joel Horton:

    For your information it is more of a conservative view that believes that our national security is not secure in the fashion it is being carried out.

    It is just costing a lot of money and causing a great deal of inconvenience especially in airports.

    I read the the FBI has sent people thru the airport with fake bombs to test just how secure the security check points are and more got thru than were detected.

  7. Zeke says:

    Pointless. The odds of being killed by a car will remain relatively constant, obviously the number will shrink relative to the number of cars on the road, the drinking laws, legal driving age, even a general dumbing down of the population. Whether we get killed by a nutter with a cheap but heavy suitcase, or anthrax in the mail depends on many things as well, such as budget cuts, human error, and even a general dumbing down of the population. Methinks however the most vital ingredient to improve our odds on the death by fundamentalist thingy would HAVE to be foreign policy. Thank god we all know our foreign policy huh?

    jb says: Can we change it, Zeke?

  8. Zeke says:

    If we educate our children correctly they are less likely to become suicide bombers or set up Guantanamo Bay. Raising a classroom of students in their final year of high school to be stumped when asked the capital of Pakistan is not helping.

    We are a great nation with many resources and much power, but we cannot blindly praise ourselves to be great or the greatest. Constantly telling ourselve that God has singled us out to be ‘free’ seems to take up too much of our time.

    Objective and reasoned political discourse will help us all. Partisan politics needs to cool itself, and serious alternatives to major news sources need to be established.

  9. Edward Winters says:

    @ Richard & jb

    I believe you are reading that statement incorrectly.

    It essentially says that if you were to die in an airline crash it is 11,000 to 1 that it was not involving any kind of ‘terrorist’ plot.

  10. Martin says:

    It’s nice to see those numbers are so low for the US.

    I wonder what they’re like in Israel?

    Not every place on earth is as safe as this one.

  11. Zeke says:

    Edward Winters. You are incorrect.

  12. Yaddoshi says:

    They forgot you are twice as likely to die from a poodle jumping out of a 14th story building window and landing on your head than in a terrorist attack.

  13. Ryan says:

    Of course, its ok to murder people as long as the chances of getting murdered are incredibly low.

  14. Intelitary Milligence says:

    If we’re there so we don’t have to fight them here, why aren’t they here so they wouldn’t have to fight us there.

    Answer: We’re not fighting Al Qaeda. We are fighting Iraqis who don’t trust us.

  15. Michael says:

    We all die- some in horrific accidents,some peacefully in our sleep. A little girl caught in a drive-by shooting,A mother giving birth-A drunk driver runs a red light and kills a father on his way to his son’s baseball game.Kids dying daily from preventable diseases because the ruler of some country trades the cure for weapons.Parents watching their children die from malnutrition,No water and there religious beliefs are not in line with their neighbors.Yes we can hold hands and yes WE can help change something,anything regardless of how pointless you may believe it to be. Help someone anyone just because you can.We all die…It’s how we live that matters most.Someone said that I can’t remember who. Goodnight

  16. Kevin says:

    What struck me most about this post was the hugely inflated numbers for heart disease. I’m curious to know what the odds are of dying a smoking-related death are versus a terrorism-related death. Of course, quite members of congress would provide unending rhetoric supporting the cause of big tobacco for no reason other than their financial contributions, so tobacco companies can slip by in spite of the fact that their product is literally killing hundreds of thousands of American citizens a year ( puts this figure at 435,000). September 11th killed 2,974 people.

    September 11th was undeniably a tragedy of incredible magnitude, but I think one interpretation of this post is that we need to shift our focus a little bit. Yes, terrorism is a threat, but so is cancer and so is heart disease, and–given these statistics–we’re grossly over-representing terrorism in the national discourse.

    It’s one thing to want to prevent terrorism intelligently, and it’s another thing to live in fear of it–to let it blind us and control how we shape our decisions as a country. That’s when terrorism truly wins, and that’s what’s been happening for the past seven and a half years in the United States.

    jb says: Thanks for this considered response, Kevin. I appreciate it. I have zapped one or two comments on this post because they were seeking to make political capital of a rather unhelpful kind or being inconsiderately aggressive. I don’t mind at all if they want to do that on their own blogs or websites, but not on mine.

  17. Alina says:

    Interesting statistics. Of course we need to be aware of the threat of terrorism. For me, it becomes a problem when the measures we institute to protect our way of life become so overwhelming that our way of life is threatened by the measures meant to protect it. If we live in such fear of the terrorist threat that our lives become blighted by that fear, then terrorists have achieved their objective. It helps to have the level of threat placed into some perspective.

  18. leftbanker says:

    You are nine times more likely to choke to death on your own vomit than die in a terrorist attack

    Maybe that drummer for Spinal Tap choked on a terrorist’s vomit? They never did get to the bottom of that mystery in the film.

  19. Nathan Rein says:

    I’d be interested to know where these numbers come from and how the calculations were done. The NSC link posted at the Eyewash Station only gives safety-related statistics (i.e., nothing about disease, and as far as I can tell, nothing about terrorism, unless I’m misreading it).

  20. los anjalis » Perspective says:

    […] Odds of Dying in a Terrorist Attack You are 13 times more likely to die in a railway accident than from a terrorist attack […]

  21. debaser71 says:

    And what are the odds of being affected by a terrorist attack if you live and/or work in say NYC?

  22. D. Rippy says:

    I lived at HQ US EUCOM in the mid 80s when the fear of terrorist attack was Khadafi – it was very real – maybe he only killed approx a 10th of those killed on Sept 11 but he killed them were I lived – and he directly threatened the lives of the people I lived with, went to school with etc. We lived with bomb checks on every car that entered EUCOM and men with large scary looking guns on their shoulders and bomb dogs patrolling our living space and regular bomb drills – helicopters flying overhead to make sure the airspace was clear – you get the picture – but we didn’t and couldn’t live our lives in fear – if we had we’d have had no lives at all – we were far more likely to be killed than the average American on American soil – but we lived through it.
    I personally let this make no change in my life and habits at all – I went to the same candy store and the same restaurants and the same record stores (yes I was a teenager)and whatever else I did – I rode trains alone and didn’t worry – I couldn’t if I had my life wouldn’t have been worth living. We did what we could and let the rest go.
    Why am I saying all of this? I guess because I’m sick of useless airport security and those who think it will do a damn thing – I’m tired of people talking about fearing an attack which may or may not happen – if you have a burning need to live in fear go ahead but don’t impose it on the rest of us – this was a beautiful example of the idiocy of those fears. I love it! Thank you.

    jb says: And thanks for the comment, D. Exactly the kind of attitude we should be showing. Once you give way to fear the terrorists have won the day.

  23. Rey says:

    It’s true. When did conservatives become such pussies?

  24. tym michel says:

    Please realize that statistics will be skewed to prevent a panic. Your Govt at work)

  25. Verena says:

    Re: Tym Michel:
    “Please realize that statistics will be skewed to prevent a panic. Your Govt at work)
    Unlike the numerous orange alerts that went out every time someone needed the public to be distracted?

  26. Noisiv says:

    I am curious as to where these facts came from.
    Is there a link I can go to that will give the source for how these statistics came about?



  27. Logan Cormier says:

    Very interesting. This really shows how we should be paying attention to the daily dangers we face and not worrying about being killed by a terrorist. It’s amazing how much the media is able to exaggerate terrorism. I have a question, though; are these statistics world wide?

    Thanks for the stats.

    jb says: The stats, as mentioned above, are based on American data.

  28. Russ Nelson says:

    Ryan, no, it’s not acceptable to kill people. The question is how dangerous is one thing versus another. Don’t think of terrorism as people being killed by a person. Think of it as a force of nature which cannot be stopped; only survived. That attitude will help you to have a more reasonable attitude towards it.

  29. john says:

    This war on terror is a waste of money and of peoples lives. Instead of investing millions of dollars in this so called war they could invest that money into research to prevent diseases which kill thousands of peoples instead.

  30. Ron Robbins says:

    Oh hell yah. JB brother you got it going on! And the rest of you , keep using that grey matter. The irony of my chances of being killed by the cops is eight times greater than from a terorist attack. Wow, when are we going to declair war on the police?

  31. Bob Hudson says:

    Huddled in the dark, waiting to die
    Huddled in the dark, waiting to die
    We’re huddled in the dark just waiting to die.
    He don’t see you when you’re sleeping!
    He don’t see you when you’re awake!
    He don’t know if you’ve been bad or good,
    so be good for GOODNESS SAKE.

    Oh, we’re huddled in the dark,
    Huddled in the dark
    Huddled in the dark
    Just huddled in the dark
    Huddled in the dark, just waiting to die.
    (More or less sung to Santa is Coming to Town)
    (Sorry for the lousy timing)

  32. Peutch says:

    Problem is, you have to be careful how you calculate probabilities. These are unconditional probabilities, not taking anything else into account.

    On the other hand, if you start taking into account the fact that, say, you live in NY, I’m pretty sure the odds are changed.
    Or if you live in Baghdad, I’d be surprised if the odds of drowning were higher than the odds of dying in a terrorist attack.

    E.g. if you are White, you are probably less likely to be shot dead by a police-man (no offense), but as likely as a Black person to die in an airplane hijacking. So this would bring the odds closer.

  33. 3d tv says:

    White people generally don’t make a fuss about being called pathetic things such as ‘Bird ****’ ‘Milk Bottle’ or even more ‘White’. In contrast even calling a Black person Black or a Asian person Asian seems to hit some sort of neuron in there brain that makes them think its refered to in a racially degrading way when they are really descriptive words informing the truth, if they upset you then the real racist is themselves for thinking their skin colour makes a difference. Everyone can say something that could be misconstruded as racist. All races must realise in future that humanity is also a race and get over skin tone otherwise everyone will continue to argue over ‘who is racist’ instead of moving on. This makes sense to me, even if its poorly explained.

  34. john baker says:

    You’re gonna have to think again about your position, Ellen. I’m afraid you’re talking racism here, and it doesn’t take a lot of nouse to understand why.

  35. […] affect less than 1/100,000 every year, less than those who die from infectious diarrhoea in the US. Here are some things that are more likely to kill you than a terrorist attack. Death by cop is eight times more likely […]

  36. paisley says:

    Never seen those stats before but here in Africa we love, enjoy and appreciate life fully because anything could happen at any time. Wonder why?