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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

August 29, 1993|Alex Raksin

COLLISION COURSE: The Truth About Airline Safety by Ralph Nader and Wesley J. Smith (TAB/McGraw-Hill Inc.: Blue Ridge Summit, Pa. 17294-0850: $21.95; 352 pp.) Most of us cling to two facts as we board what is essentially an aluminum can about to clamber up to 30,000 feet: one, flying is safer than driving; and two, even today's hard-pressed airlines would never compromise on safety. In this dry but responsible expose, Ralph Nader and fellow consumer advocate Wesley Smith confirm the first fact (between 1980 and '89, they admit, there was less than one fatal accident per 1 million departures) and acknowledge that there is some truth to the second: Air carriers know that if "passengers ever come to believe that their lives are truly endangered by getting on an airliner, the industry itself would be what crashed and burned." Still, they argue that in American airways, "the level of risk appears to be growing." While they are unable to substantiate this statistically, they demonstrate many troubling trends and offer carefully argued solutions; e.g., doing away with a macabre federal law that allows safety measures to be implemented only after they have passed an "acceptable deaths" cost/benefit analysis.

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