Big Question: What are the odds of surviving a plane crash?

It's something that fills many a flier with dread: the prospect of crashing. Odds-wise, they're still incredibly rare, but crashes do happen to an unlucky few. What are their odds for survival?

Curiosity contributor Bambi Turner found some surprisingly hopeful news when she mined the statistics.

It's no surprise that about 40 percent of passengers express some form of fear or anxiety about flying [source: Baskas]. Much of this fear can be attributed to the perception that the odds of surviving a crash are slim.

Notwithstanding that fear, the odds of being in an airplane accident are incredibly small. Accidents occur at a rate of one per 1.2 million flights, and the odds of dying in a plane crash are 1 in 11 million [sources: Clarke, Ropeik]. The odds of dying in a car accident are around 1 in 5,000, so you're much more likely to die getting to the airport than you are flying in the plane [source: Ropeik].

But what if you're onboard that 1 in 1.2 million flights that ends up in an accident? Surprisingly, you're much more likely to walk away from an airline accident than you are to perish. In fact, a staggering 95.7 percent of people involved in plane crashes survive. Even in the most serious class of crashes, more than 76 percent survive [source: NTSB].

While these statistics may be calming for some, others may still experience incredible unease. If you're such a person, ease your fears and maximize your chances for survival by taking control when you fly. Sit as close to an exit row as possible. Survivors of deadly crashes are more likely to be those seated within five rows of an exit -- any further, and the odds of survival decrease dramatically. In the rare event that you're involved in a crash, 35 to 40 percent of your ability to evacuate safely comes down to being prepared and alert [source: Beam]. Know where the exits are and be prepared to find your way to them.

Also know when to be ready. More than 80 percent of crashes occur during the first three minutes of takeoff or the last eight minutes before landing [source: Cruz]. Stay awake, avoid alcohol, remove your headphones and be ready for action then.

For more on airplane crashes and passenger safety, check out the Curiosity Season 2 episode Plane Crash.

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