In the wake of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, here’s how Americans travel

As an accident in the air and a crash on the ground were both reported Friday, it’s worth digging a little deeper and analyzing which disasters have turned the dial on air travel around the world. And in the face of terrifying experiences we’ve seen not just in America, but in Europe, it’s worth taking a closer look at how people travel over their lunch breaks.

Thursday, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, crashed while crossing over Ukraine. This crash, while devastating to passengers and crew, occurred last July and investigations have mostly reached a halt. The airliner was reportedly shot down by Russian-backed separatists during an armed standoff between the two nations, but government investigators have been unable to confirm who fired the missile, while foreign governments have been reluctant to criticize Russia, which has vowed to hand over the location of the debris and remains of the victims. In the July 24 Malaysia Airlines crash, a plane in Japan was also shot down, with the crew explaining that it may have been a mechanical failure, and a month later, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 went missing on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Officials called it a “crash” because it fell out of the sky, while the passenger plane that crashed in Ukraine is still missing.

Also Thursday, a crashed vehicle killed two people and injured others in Austria. The SUV ran off the road and hit a tree, according to the Associated Press. The crash happened in Salzburg, and local media reported that the vehicle hit five other vehicles.

Of course, when a catastrophic event occurs, it can surprise even experts and are due in part to a driver’s inability to judge the road ahead. There is, of course, also human error: Because passengers don’t think about navigating densely trafficked roads, it is a safer bet to ride as a passenger. (This is why people who live in cities, who don’t typically drive, are sometimes confused about what their community and airports are like when they get on a plane). The film “Black and White,” released in May in the U.S., provided some uncomfortable lessons about more driven audiences; it was adapted from a podcast with the same name. According to the New York Times, the two people who attacked a stranger because they thought the driver of a Mercedes was Caucasian, weren’t viewing a movie in Amsterdam. Rather, they’d been searching the area for the driver of the wrong vehicle, they later admitted to cops. Perhaps it wasn’t trying to avoid vehicles.

So what about the passengers who don’t ride in cars? A 2015 survey found that 25 percent of American adults took a train instead of a plane to travel to work, instead of taking a car. That’s almost as many people who chose to go on a bus as those who flew. These people, over lunch, were going to museums, vineyards, mountains and cities. In 2009, research published in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) found that nearly 5 percent of American adults became dizzy and disoriented on a plane, with a few of those people suffering panic attacks. This was an interesting experiment, because each person was sent to either take a train to the airport or a plane. On the plane, 5 percent were dizzy and disoriented, while 3 percent became ill with “two or more hypertension-related effects,” according to the BMJ study. On the train, the number of dizzy and disoriented people went up from 2 percent to 6 percent.

And on Friday, the U.K. Daily Mail reported that a hoverboard, for which the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is conducting an investigation, caught fire in Manchester, U.K. and lit on fire. People were walking on the hoverboard before the fire spread, but the report didn’t immediately clarify which particular parts caught fire.

Somewhere, a metal guy who rode a whole roller coaster to get to the next stop cannot yet discuss the risks of riding a hoverboard.

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