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Is the TSA Killing Us?

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Carolina K. Smith, M.D. / Shutterstock.com

As we enter into the busiest travel time of the year, long lines at airport security are among the many peeves travelers will encounter. Some who seek to avoid the inconvenience of air travel will pack up their cars and hit the road. According to AAA, more Americans will be traveling this year than last. The auto club predicts that 43.6 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home during the holiday—an increase of 0.7 percent from last year, reported the AP.  

But this increase in car travel may not be a good thing, as Charles Kenny of Businessweek argues. He says the increase in road travel leads to higher traffic fatalities—and he lays the blame, in part, at the feet of the Transportation Security Administration:

There is lethal collateral damage associated with all this spending on airline security—namely, the inconvenience of air travel is pushing more people onto the roads. Compare the dangers of air travel to those of driving. To make flying as dangerous as using a car, a four-plane disaster on the scale of 9/11 would have to occur every month, according to analysis published in the American Scientist.

Researchers at Cornell University suggest that people switching from air to road transportation in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks led to an increase of 242 driving fatalities per month—which means that a lot more people died on the roads as an indirect result of 9/11 than died from being on the planes that terrible day. They also suggest that enhanced domestic baggage screening alone reduced passenger volume by about 5 percent in the five years after 9/11, and the substitution of driving for flying by those seeking to avoid security hassles over that period resulted in more than 100 road fatalities.

With the TSA commanding a budget of nearly $8 billion, Kenny argues that the TSA has outlived it’s usefulness “as the threat of a terrorist attack on the U.S. homeland continues to recede.”

The attention paid to terrorism in the U.S. is considerably out of proportion to the relative threat it presents. That’s especially true when it comes to Islamic-extremist terror. Of the 150,000 murders in the U.S. between 9/11 and the end of 2010, Islamic extremism accounted for fewer than three dozen.

You can read Kenny’s full argument at Bloomberg Businessweek.

What’s your take? Will you be driving to avoid the hassle of air travel over the holidays? Do you think the TSA does an important job or that it’s time to rethink our approach to airport security? 

(Image via Carolina K. Smith, M.D. / Shutterstock.com)

Mark Micheli is Special Projects Editor for Government Executive Media Group. He's the editor of Excellence in Government Online and contributes to GovExec, NextGov and Defense One. Previously, he worked on national security and emergency management issues with the US Treasury Department and the Department of Homeland Security. He's a graduate of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs and studied at Drake University.

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