Planes still a safe way to travel, say most Singaporeans in an ST street poll

A Singapore Airlines (SIA) aircraft at the Changi Airport. Singaporeans view planes as a safe option to travel, although cars are seen as the safest, according to a recent street poll conducted by The Straits Times Digital team. -- ST FILE PHOTO
A Singapore Airlines (SIA) aircraft at the Changi Airport. Singaporeans view planes as a safe option to travel, although cars are seen as the safest, according to a recent street poll conducted by The Straits Times Digital team. -- ST FILE PHOTO:  ALPHONSUS CHERN

Singaporeans view planes as a safe option to travel, although cars are seen as the safest, according to a recent street poll conducted by The Straits Times Digital team.

Thirty-one out of 100 respondents picked cars as the safest mode of transport out of five options. Airplanes came a close second, with votes from 30 people.

Singaporeans and permanent residents were asked to rank how safe they felt the following modes of transport were: cars, airplanes, trains, ships and buses. The poll was conducted in early April in Orchard Road, Raffles Place, Bugis and Bishan, a few weeks after the MH370 flight incident. The respondents were between 17 and 56 years old.

None said that they had changed their travel plan because of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight mystery. "Plane accidents rarely happen. Anyway, flying is the only option to go overseas other than to Malaysia," said Mr Jason Leung, 21, a national serviceman, who will be going to Hong Kong for a holiday in November.

In comparison, 32 respondents picked ships as the least safe option to travel. This poll was conducted before a South Korea ferry capsized on April 16. Some 300 passengers are dead or missing.

As for those respondents who ranked cars as the safest travel option, they felt they would be more in control in a car and that help would be more easily accessible in the event of an accident. "If anything goes wrong, I can better react," said Ms Zinc Goh, a 33-year-old senior financial services manager.

Interestingly, while Singaporeans feel they would be safest in cars, statistics show they were actually most vulnerable on the road.

Last year, there were 16 fatalities and 2,254 injuries in car-related accidents, according to the Traffic Police Department. For buses, there was one fatality and 202 injuries.

Those who felt airplanes were the safest said they had read news reports indicating fewer casualties in air travel. Only nine said that they felt unsafe on a flight. Experts support the view that that flying is relatively safe.

"While commercial air crashes are tragic, they are also getting rarer and are usually not the result of technical failure," said Mr Liew Hui Sing, the course chair for the diploma in aeronautical engineering in Singapore Polytechnic.

In fact, there were only 224 fatalities last year - the lowest number of accidents involving large commercial airplanes worldwide in the past decade, said the European Aviation Safety Agency in January. Between 2003 and 2012, there was a yearly average of 703 fatalities.

Plane crashes usually receive more media coverage as they can have many casualties at one time, making them seem more frightening, said Associate Professor Randy Chue, from Nanyang Technological University's School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Comparatively, while there are car crashes every day, fewer people die each time, he explained.

This means that even though many people may die from car accidents each year, the fatalities are spread over time and people are less sensitised to them, he added.

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