Every month brings a new story about the abuses of TSA. There's the cancer-surviving flight attendant forced to remove her prosthetic breast, the man whose urostomy bag was damaged during inspection forcing him to fly soaked in urine, children terrorized as they are groped and prodded by complete strangers, and on and on.
Despite this serious government intrusion into our civil rights, many Americans want the TSA to go even farther. A recent survey found that 30% of US Citizens believe that the TSA should be able conduct body cavity searches as part of screening to get on a plane. We seem to be willing to put up with an impromptu prostate exam by a civil service employee as long as these folks are keeping us alive.
But are they? It's well-known that TSA has never intercepted a terrorist or foiled a plot, and now a new study suggests that the increased security measures are actually killing Americans by the thousands. Bloomberg Businessweek has a piece this week about a new study which concludes that as more Americans avoid air travel because of the security hassle, fatalities on our nation's highways are increasing.
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.
Ben Franklin warned us that "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." In the case of TSA and airport screenings, it appears we have gotten exactly what we deserve.