The TSA Has Caused More Deaths - Possibly Of 2,300 People - Not Prevented Them
Terrific piece by Dylan Matthews at VOX on the rights-yanking, passenger groping securitydoggle known as the TSA, and the sorry results, from the 95 percent failure rate to the deaths they've very likely caused:
One paper by economists Garrick Blalock, Vrinda Kadiyali, and Daniel Simon found that, controlling for other factors like weather and traffic, 9/11 provoked such a large decrease in air traffic and increase in driving that 327 more people died every month from road accidents. The effect dissipated over time, but the total death toll (up to 2,300) rivals that of the attacks themselves.
Another paper by the same authors found that one post-9/11 security measure -- increased checked baggage screening -- reduced passenger volume by about 6 percent. Combine the two papers, and you get a disturbing conclusion: In their words, over the course of three months, "approximately 129 individuals died in automobile accidents which resulted from travelers substituting driving for flying in response to inconvenience associated with baggage screening."
This isn't just one set of studies; there's other evidence that 9/11 led to an increase in driving, which cost at least a thousand lives. The 129 deaths per quarter-year figure is, as Nate Silver notes, "the equivalent of four fully-loaded Boeing 737s crashing each year."
You can dispute the precise figures here; these are regression analyses, which are hardly perfect. But it stands to reason that having to get to the airport two or three hours before a flight reduces demand for flights relative to a world where you only have to arrive 30 minutes beforehand -- particularly for flights on routes where a two- to three-hour wait dramatically increases travel time relative to driving, like New York to Washington, DC, or Boston to New York. That means more driving. That means more death.
That might be worth it for a system that we know for a fact prevents attacks. But there's no evidence the TSA does...The solution is clear: Airports should kick out the TSA, hire (well-paid and unionized) private screeners, and simply ask people to go through normal metal detectors with their shoes on, their laptops in their bags, and all the liquids they desire. The increased risk would be negligible -- and if it gets people to stop driving and start flying, it could save lives.